School Teacher

A Beautiful Childhood Obesity Plan with Null Results

Schools seem to be the place to start on a childhood obesity plan. School meals, health education, physical activity – strategists have a complete roadmap for preventing childhood obesity at school. But unfortunately, a new study published today in the BMJ points to the distinct possibility that even the most beautiful childhood obesity plan might have no effect.

A Cluster Randomized, Controlled Trial in Schools

Peymane Adab and colleagues studied a 12 month program in British primary schools. They followed 1,169 first graders in 53 schools for 30 months. The program targeted children and their families with physical activity, healthy nutrition, and skill building for lifelong health. They even had family workshops on healthy cooking skills.

But there was one thing they didn’t have. At the end of 30 months, they had no effect on obesity. It was a beautiful plan. Unfortunately it didn’t work.

A Strong Signal to Try Something Else

Childhood Obesity 2-5Perhaps this is why obesity earns the label of a wickedly complex problem. It seems so simple on the surface. Public health experts routinely tell us, “We know what to do to reduce obesity.” And yet, when we look at results, the prevalence keeps climbing.

Commenting on these results, Duke University professor Sarah Armstrong pointed out that she found similar results in adolescents with the HEALTHY study. Those results fell short of having a significant effect on overweight and obesity – the study’s primary endpoint. But she told MedPage Today that this is no reason to abandon critical goals for promoting child health.

Writing in a BMJ editorial, Melissa Wake called for urgent action to develop and test more effective strategies to address childhood obesity. She quoted Churchill:

However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.

Click here for the study and here for the editorial. For more on this from the BBC, click here.

School Teacher, painting by Jan Steen / WikiArt

Subscribe by email to follow the accumulating evidence and observations that shape our view of health, obesity, and policy.


February 8, 2018

One Response to “A Beautiful Childhood Obesity Plan with Null Results”

  1. February 08, 2018 at 3:23 pm, Kaitlin Roke said:

    I really like the interactive graph!