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.