Sunday, December 25, 2011

Childhood Obesity Falls?

According to this piece in the Atlantic childhood obesity has fallen in NYC. They attribute the results to several interventions designed to solve the problem. But I wonder to what degree this is one of the happy side effects of a prolonged recession? Parents have less money to satiate the sugary demands of their children.
As I explained to Bloomberg News, if this trend continues, it will represent the first truly positive development in years.

It also suggests that the health department's unusually aggressive efforts to address obesity may be paying off. If so, they should inspire other communities to do the same kinds of things. If nothing else, they raise awareness of the problem and help create an environment more conducive to healthy eating.

On the national level, Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign also has raised awareness. Could it be that we are getting to a tipping point?

It's pretty clear by now what works. A Cochane meta-analysis of 55 studies finds strong evidence to support beneficial effects of child obesity prevention programs on BMI, particularly for kids age six to 12.

The interventions showing the most promise are just like those in New York City:
  • School curriculum that includes healthy eating, physical activity, and body image.
  •           School sessions for physical activity throughout the school week.
  • Improvements in nutritional quality of the food supply in schools.
  • Environments and cultural practices that support children eating healthier foods and being active throughout each day.
  • Support for teachers and other staff to implement health promotion strategies and activities (e.g. professional development, capacity building activities).
  • Parent support and home activities that encourage children to be more active, eat more nutritious foods, and spend less time in screen-based activities.