BACKGROUND. The prevalence and seriousness of childhood obesity has prompted calls for broad public health solutions that reach beyond clinic settings. Schools are ideal settings for population-based interventions to address obesity.
OBJECTIVE. The purpose of this work was to examine the effects of a multicomponent, School Nutrition Policy Initiative on the prevention of overweight (85.0th to 94.9th percentile) and obesity (>95.0th percentile) among children in grades 4 through 6 over a 2-year period.
METHODS. Participants were 1349 students in grades 4 through 6 from 10 schools in a US city in the Mid-Atlantic region with ≥50% of students eligible for free or reduced-price meals. Schools were matched on school size and type of food service and randomly assigned to intervention or control. Students were assessed at baseline and again after 2 years. The School Nutrition Policy Initiative included the following components: school self-assessment, nutrition education, nutrition policy, social marketing, and parent outreach.
RESULTS. The incidences of overweight and obesity after 2 years were primary outcomes. The prevalence and remission of overweight and obesity, BMI z score, total energy and fat intake, fruit and vegetable consumption, body dissatisfaction, and hours of activity and inactivity were secondary outcomes. The intervention resulted in a 50% reduction in the incidence of overweight. Significantly fewer children in the intervention schools (7.5%) than in the control schools (14.9%) became overweight after 2 years. The prevalence of overweight was lower in the intervention schools. No differences were observed in the incidence or prevalence of obesity or in the remission of overweight or obesity at 2 years.
CONCLUSION. A multicomponent school-based intervention can be effective in preventing the development of overweight among children in grades 4 through 6 in urban public schools with a high proportion of children eligible for free and reduced-priced school meals.