ICO: Obesity Prevention Success Varies by Age Group

Community-based interventions to prevent childhood obesity found most effective in those under 5
By Beth Gilbert
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, July 15 (HealthDay News) -- In community-based intervention programs to prevent obesity in children, those targeting children under 5 years of age have been most effective, those targeting primary school aged children have been somewhat effective, and the effects of those targeting adolescents have varied, according to research presented at the International Congress on Obesity, held from July 11 to 15 in Stockholm, Sweden.

Boyd A. Swinburn, M.D., of Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, reported findings from three community-based demonstration projects around Geelong, Australia. Each of the projects took a community capacity building approach over two to three years and had quasi-experimental designs with greater than 1,000 participants each in the intervention and comparison groups. One project focused on children under 5 years of age, another targeted primary school aged children, and the third targeted adolescents. The program targeting adolescents had similar sister projects in Fiji, Tonga, and Auckland, New Zealand.

The author found that the program targeting children under 5 years of age achieved substantial reductions (2.5 to 3.4 percentage points) in prevalence of overweight/obesity. In the program targeting primary school aged children, there were significant reductions in unhealthy weight gain but not in overweight/obesity prevalence. However, in the programs targeting adolescents across four countries, the interventions had a varied effect, depending on the population group, sometimes reducing overweight and obesity but sometimes having no effect.

"Our results, together with the evidence from other demonstration projects conducted elsewhere, suggest we should get moving to scale up efforts in the under-5s. There hasn't been that much research in this age group, but what has been done around the world indicates these children seem to be the most susceptible to change," Swinburn said in a statement.

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