A study released today shows that benefits of a school-and community-based childhood obesity intervention program can spill over to parents, decreasing parents’ body mass index (BMI). “Shape up Somerville” initiative; Public schools focused on early elementary grades 1st through 3rd in Somerville, Massachusetts.
More than one-third of U.S. adults are obese, according to CDC data. Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. Obesity-related conditions include some of the leading causes of preventable death: heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. was $147 billion in 2008 U.S. dollars and the medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.
Schools play a critical role in obesity prevention by establishing safe and supportive environments with policies and practices that support healthy eating and physical activity. The results of this study imply that the benefits of a school-centered, community-based obesity intervention program helps children but also improves parents’ BMIs. The study shows that without any additional investment, society may influence parent BMIs by using resources on properly structured child-focused obesity prevention efforts. Further research is warranted to examine the effects of this type of intervention on parental health behaviors and health outcomes.