The Effectiveness of a School Intervention Program. A Panacea against Obesity?
A large randomised controlled trial was conducted in the West Midlands, looking into the effectiveness of a school and family based healthy lifestyle programme, in comparison to usual practice. 1,467 year 1 pupils aged 5 to 6 years (control, 778 pupils), were randomised into the study, with follow-ups at 15 months and 30 months. The intervention consisted of encouraging healthy eating and physical activity, which included a daily additional 30-minute school time physical activity opportunity and a 6-week interactive skills programme in conjunction with Aston Villa football club. There was also signposting of family physical opportunities and termly workshops looking at healthy eating cooking skills.
The main outcome measured in the study was BMIz score at 15 and 30 months respectively. They also looked at other anthropometric, dietary, physical activity and psychological measurements. Unfortunately, at 15 and 30 months follow up, there was no statistically significant improvement in any of the outcomes measured. Despite this rigorous in-school intervention, the primary analysis suggests that it was in fact, ineffective. Although this study was inconclusive, the authors go on to point out that it highlights the difficulty of the task of reducing weight in children, and that schools alone may not be the answer. A holistic approach that incorporates school, home, environment and policy is one that is most likely to succeed, and the idea that school-based interventions will solve the problem is likely oversimplifying the issue.