Schools play an important role in fighting childhood obesity according to a recent study that revealed the effectiveness of the Healthy Schools Program implemented by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. The effects of the pioneering project were evaluated for the first time in a study that was recently published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) journal, Preventing Chronic Disease.
The study titled “Effect of the Healthy Schools Program on Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity in California Schools 2006-2012” revealed that schools are important vehicles to support the decrease in childhood obesity rates. This was the first time that the program was evaluated in a peer-reviewed article, after ten years of the Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association working together at the Alliance for a Healthier Generation to reduce childhood obesity.
The study was led by Kristine A. Madsen, MD, MPH, from the University of California Berkeley, School of Public Health and analyzed data from 281 schools in California included in the Program between 2006 and 2012. The researcher concluded that it is “an effective model for addressing childhood obesity among engaged schools,” and that there is a correlation between a significant participation in the program and a decrease in overweight and obesity prevalence among students in high-need schools.
“It’s encouraging to see the proven positive impact of the Healthy Schools Program on childhood obesity,” stated former President Bill Clinton according to a press release. “Over the past ten years, the Alliance involved all stakeholders ‒ schools, companies, communities, healthcare professionals and families. The combination of commitment and cooperation has made the difference.”
Initiated in 2006, the Healthy Schools Program offers a framework, assessment and action plan for schools, as well as virtual and onsite training, technical assistance and support from national specialists to help schools change health habits in a sustainable manner. Despite the fact that study focuses only on California schools, there are currently over 29,000 schools throughout the country included in the program, the majority of which are in high-need of interventions.
In more than 40% of the schools being served by the Healthy Schools Program, students are being offered either free or reduced price lunches. According to the study, high-quality training, technical assistance and engagement in the program are in fact able to impact alterations in the access to healthier food and physical activity.
In addition to proving the effectiveness of the program, the study supports the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s work by confirming the delivery of its mission. “This study is evidence of our 2005 dream realized. While we know we have much more work to do to reverse the tide of obesity, we’re showing signs of success through the Alliance’s Healthy Schools Program,” continued the CEO of the American Heart Association Nancy Brown.
“We’re pleased the findings confirm that the Alliance’s Healthy Schools Program is delivering on our mission: to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity,” added the CEO of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation Dr. Howell Wechsler. “Reaching more than 17 million students across the country and growing, we will continue to positively impact children’s health on a national scale.”
The program was launched with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which also funded now the study. “Healthy school environments are critical to ensuring that every child grows up at a healthy weight and to RWJF’s goal of building a nationwide Culture of Health,” said the president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD.
“This study reinforces the critical role that the Alliance’s Healthy Schools Program can play in making a healthy school the norm and not the exception in the United States. We are proud of our commitment to initiate and expand the Alliance’s Healthy Schools Program over the past decade, and we look forward to continued progress in our joint efforts to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic,” added Lavizzo-Mourey.
Childhood obesity is a matter of rising concern in the country, particularly in schools. Another study had also recently evaluated the most recent policy measures that aim to prevent junk food from competing with meals offered at schools, demonstrating that they are effective in curtailing childhood obesity. However, the program is largely being shown to work in wealthier neighborhoods, while poorer areas revealed slower progress.