Canadian school program tackles childhood obesity

February 23, 2005 in Nutrition Topics in the News

Canadian school program tackles childhood obesity

Recent Canadian research shows that a healthy-living program that promotes good nutrition with regular physical activity for children in primary school – drastically reduces the number of overweight children. The program, which is currently in place in 12 Nova Scotia schools includes healthy-eating curriculum, daily gym class, healthy and inexpensive cafeteria food and accessible after-school activities.

Researchers claim that to be effective, a comprehensive, integrated approach is necessary to tackle the problem of childhood obesity. The research found that under the healthy-living program, the number of obese children fell even more dramatically than the number of overweight youngsters.

In schools without a healthy-living strategy, about 10 per cent of children were obese and 33 per cent were overweight, compared to schools with the program, where about 4 per cent of youngsters were obese and 18 per cent were overweight. The program resulted in children eating more fruits and vegetables, fewer fatty foods, playing more games and sports, and engaging in fewer sedentary activities, such as TV and video games.

The healthy-living program began in 1997, after parents became concerned about the poor quality of the food in their children's lunchboxes and in the cafeteria, which brought in food from local fast-food restaurants. After-school sports programs are also offered free of charge, and money has been allotted to a drive-home program to ensure all children who want to, can participate.

At Port Williams Elementary, a school with 275 students, the healthy-living program costs about $25,000 annually -- or less than $100 per student.

The study, which involved 5,200 Grade 5 students, compared body weight, diet and activities of children in schools with no program, with only a nutrition program, and with a comprehensive nutrition and physical-activity program. There was virtually no difference between the schools with a nutrition program and those offering nothing at all, but results were better across-the-board in the schools with comprehensive healthy-living programs.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.