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Schools alone can't boost kids' health

Wednesday May 28th, 2014

School-based interventions to get children exercising more and eating more fruit and vegetables may not be workable on their own, researchers warn today.

The findings are the latest to suggest the key to improved child health may lie in the education of parents as much as children.

Many attempts have been made to increase children's physical activity and fruit and vegetable consumption, in order to set healthy patterns for adulthood. School-based approaches have the potential to reach the vast majority of children, but questions remain over their effectiveness.

Professor Debbie Lawlor of Bristol University, UK, and her team evaluated a school-based intervention involving 2,221 children at 60 primary schools in south west England. The children were in year 5 (aged nine to ten years) at the start. Teachers were trained, given the materials needed, and provided with lesson and homework plans.

But the children showed no improvements compared with those not given the intervention. There were no differences on minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day, measured by an accelerometer, or daily consumption of fruit and vegetables. There appeared to be small reductions in screen time at the weekend, daily snacks, and high-energy drinks.

Full results are published by the British Medical Journal. The authors conclude that this intervention "is not effective at increasing levels of physical activity decreasing sedentary behaviour, and increasing fruit and vegetable consumption in primary school children."

They add that changes in these activities "may require more intensive behavioural interventions with children or upstream interventions at the family and societal level, as well as at the school environment level."

The team urges future researchers, policy makers, public health practitioners, and commissioning doctors to carefully consider these findings.

Kipping, R. R. et al. Effect of intervention aimed at increasing physical activity, reducing sedentary behaviour, and increasing fruit and vegetable consumption in children: Active for Life Year 5 (AFLY5) school based cluster randomised controlled trial. BMJ 28 May 2014 doi: 10.1136/bmj.g3256

Tags: Child Health | Diet & Food | Fitness | UK News

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