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'Target obese kids in school' - study
[Posted: Wed 07/12/2011 by Deborah Condon www.irishhealth.com]
School-based programmes may hold the key to tackling the serious issue of child obesity, a new study indicates.
According to international researchers, focusing on children who are aged between six and 12 with various school-based programmes could lead to a reduction in levels of obesity.
Currently in Ireland, 19% of nine-year-olds are overweight, while 7% are obese.
The researchers carried out a major review of the evidence surrounding this serious issue. This included an analysis of over 50 trials. They found that as most cases of obesity are linked to poor diet and not enough exercise, this is what many of the programmes aimed to tackle.
While the results varied, the team noted that taken together, the evidence suggested that various programmes aimed at encouraging healthy eating and increasing physical activity levels had a positive effect on the weight of the children involved, as well as their body image.
"There is now compelling evidence that strategies can be implemented to halt the growing rates of obesity in children. We know that doing nothing is likely to result in increases of overweight and obesity, particularly in countries where the prevalence continues to rise," explained lead researcher, Prof Elizabeth Waters, of the University of Melbourne in Australia.
The programmes included initiatives such as:
-Improving the nutritional quality of the foods on offer in schools
-Increasing the amount of time spent on physical activities during school time
-Providing better professional support to teachers who attempt to introduce health promotion strategies.
"Our findings show that obesity prevention is worth investing in. Given the range of programmes included in this review, it is hard to say exactly which components are the best, but we think the strategies to focus on are those that seek to change environments, rather than just the behaviour of individuals," Prof Waters said.
Details of these findings are published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2011.
For more on this issue, see our feature, Govt pledges action on child obesity crisis, here
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