This study tested the efficacy of two school-based programs for prevention of body weight/fat gain in comparison to a control group, in all participants and in overweight children. The Louisiana (LA) Health study utilized a longitudinal, cluster randomized three-arm controlled design, with 28 months of follow-up. Children (N = 2,060; mean age = 10.5 years, SD = 1.2) from rural communities in grades 4-6 participated in the study. Seventeen school clusters (mean = 123 children/cluster) were randomly assigned to one of three prevention arms: (i) primary prevention (PP), an environmental modification (EM) program, (ii) primary + secondary prevention (PP+SP), the environmental program with an added classroom and internet education component, or (iii) control (C). Primary outcomes were changes in percent body fat and BMI z scores. Secondary outcomes were changes in behaviors related to energy balance.
- Comparisons of PP, PP+SP, and C on changes in body fat and BMI z scores found no differences.
- Relative to C, EM decreased body fat for boys (-1.7 ± 0.38% vs. -0.14 ± 0.69%) and attenuated fat gain for girls (2.9 ± 0.22% vs. 3.93 ± 0.37%), but standardized effect sizes were relatively small (<0.30).
- In conclusion, this school-based EM programs had modest beneficial effects on changes in percent body fat. Addition of a classroom/internet program to the environmental program did not enhance weight/fat gain prevention, but did impact physical activity and social support in overweight children.
- Williamson DA, Champagne CM, Harsha DW, Han H, Martin CK, Newton RL Jr, Sothern MS, Stewart TM, Webber LS, Ryan DH. Effect of an environmental school-based obesity prevention program on changes in body fat and body weight: a randomized trial. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2012 Aug;20(8):1653-61. PMCID: PMC3374922.
- Research Center: Pennington Biomedical Research Center