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Health Promot Int. 2003 Dec;18(4):287-96.

Evaluation of a pilot school programme aimed at the prevention of obesity in children.

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Nutrition and Food Science Group, School of Biological and Molecular Sciences, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK.


This paper describes the development, implementation and evaluation of a school- and family-based intervention to prevent obesity in children aged 5-7 years. In addition, the efficacy of three different intervention programmes was compared. Children aged 5-7 years (n=213) were recruited from three primary schools in Oxford and randomly allocated to a control group or one of three intervention groups: nutrition group, physical activity group, and combined nutrition and physical activity group. The setting for the interventions was lunchtime clubs, where an interactive and age-appropriate nutrition and/or physical activity curriculum was delivered. The intervention lasted for 20 weeks over four school terms (approximately 14 months). Children's growth, nutrition knowledge, diet and physical activity were assessed at baseline and at the end of the intervention. Significant improvements in nutrition knowledge were seen in all children (p<0.01) between baseline and post-intervention, and results were highly significant in the nutrition and combined group (p<0.001). Overall, fruit and vegetable intake increased significantly (p<0.01 and <0.05, respectively), with changes seen in fruit consumption in the nutrition group (p<0.05) and the control group (p<0.05) in particular. No significant changes in the rates of overweight and obesity were seen as a result of the intervention. Gender differences were not detected in the majority of assessments and there was no clear effect of programme type per se. This pilot study has demonstrated that school may be a suitable setting for the promotion of healthy lifestyles in children, but requires replication in other social settings. Future initiatives should be long-lasting, multi-faceted and sustainable, involving all children in a school, and should target the whole environment and be behaviourally focused. The ultimate goal of any such programme is to lead to positive behaviour change which will have a beneficial effect on long-term health. Successful targeting of the family remains a challenge to such interventions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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