Obesity Prevention in Young Schoolchildren: Results of a Pilot Study


  • We express gratitude to the Hilda Willis Foundation, the I.S. Cooper Foundation, the Hearst Foundation, The Weezie Foundation, and the National Hypertension Association for support of the VITAL program to prevent and combat childhood obesity in schoolchildren reported in this study. We express deep gratitude to Ms. Alla Krayko for expert secretarial assistance.

William M. Manger, Chairman, National Hypertension Association, Professor of Clinical Medicine, (nathypertension@aol.com), New York University Langone Medical Center, 324 East 30th Street, New York, NY 10016.


BACKGROUND: Overweight and obesity occur in 17% of children in the United States. Complications of excess weight in Americans cause 216,000 to 300,000 deaths yearly and cost $147 billion.

METHODS: A convenience sample of 14 intervention and 15 control schools in the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh was used. A program to improve lifestyle (Values Initiative Teaching About Lifestyle [VITAL®]), was implemented in young children to encourage healthy eating and appropriate physical activity. Students had annual evaluations of height and weight over a 2-year period, and teachers participating in VITAL completed questionnaires regarding the program. Changes in age- and sex-adjusted body mass index (BMI) percentiles in control and intervention groups were compared using linear mixed models regression.

RESULTS: VITAL was highly rated by teachers and was popular with children. Over the 2-year period, adjusted mean BMI percentiles declined from 66.1 to 65.0 in control children and from 62.8 to 58.9 in intervention children. The rates of change in the 2 groups were significantly different (p = .015).

CONCLUSION: VITAL improves lifestyle of young schoolchildren, is inexpensive, easy to implement, and should be expanded to improve health and reduce healthcare's financial burden.