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Keywords:

  • pediatric obesity;
  • intervention;
  • prevention;
  • school-based

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND

This study evaluated a school-based obesity intervention for elementary school children (N = 835) where health professionals assisted teachers with the integration of healthy messages into the school curriculum.

METHODS

Schools were randomized into a professional-facilitated intervention (PFI; N = 4) or a self-help (SH; N = 3) condition. Changes in weight-based outcomes were assessed in students enrolled in the second grade from all 7 schools (overall: N = 835 students; PFI: N = 509 students, SH: N = 326 students). Students were between ages 7 and 9 and from diverse ethnic backgrounds (Asian = 25.3%, Black = 23.3%, Hispanic = 23.1%, White = 28.3%). The sample included 321 overweight/obese (BMI ≥ 85th percentile), 477 normal-weight (BMI ≥ 5th percentile and <85th percentile), and 37 underweight (BMI < 5th percentile) students.

RESULTS

After 2 years, children who were overweight/obese in the PFI condition significantly reduced their standardized BMI (zBMI) compared to children in the SH condition (Wald χ2 = 28.7, p < .001). End-of-year grades decreased for overweight/obese students in both conditions; however, students in the PFI exhibited a smaller decrease in grades compared to the SH condition (Wald χ2 = 80.3, p < .001).

CONCLUSION

The results indicate that an obesity prevention program where health professionals assist teachers by integrating healthy messages into existing curriculum was effective in reducing zBMI compared to the SH condition.