This Is an Intervention

Study analyzes the content of nutrition intervention programs in schools

(RxWiki News) As America becomes increasingly aware of its childhood obesity problem, various actors are getting involved to thwart the growth of this epidemic.

A principal element of the effort, thanks in part to the Let's Move initiative, is the implementation of nutrition intervention programs in schools.

Since 1980, the prevalence of childhood obesity has more than tripled. In 2008, nearly 20 percent of children between the ages of 6 and 11 years, and about 18 percent of adolescents between 12 and 19 years of age, were obese. Obesity puts children at risk of many immediate health problems such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, bone and joint problems, and sleep apnea. Obese children are also at risk later in life of adult health conditions including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and osteoarthritis. As the number of obese children grows, pressure to bring nutrition education and physical activity to the classroom increases. 

Nutrition intervention programs consist of a multitude of components. In order to determine which of 10 recommended components are currently being implemented successfully, a group of researchers performed a content analysis of twenty-six school-based nutrition interventions.

Their findings, which appear in the January/February 2011 issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, indicate that many of the study's recommended components are not often used. Community involvement (15 percent), establishment of foodservice guidelines (15 percent), inclusion of ethnic/cultural groups (15 percent), inclusion of incentives for schools (12 percent), and involvement of parents at school (8 percent) were all components rarely utilized. On the other hand, nutrition education (85 percent) and parental involvement at home (62 percent) were more commonly used.

According to lead author Mary Roseman, Ph.D., R.D., L.D., and her colleagues, these findings illustrate the need for further development of nutrition interventions in order to achieve the best results. In light of the absence of substantial research on the efficacy of nutrition interventions, the authors urge others to increase awareness and funding of such interventions while continuing to research strategies with the greatest impact.

Review Date: 
January 10, 2011