Study: Parental education reduces childhood obesity, but more physical activity may be needed

9 Mar

Moi wrote in Childhood obesity: Recess is being cut in low-income schools:

The goal of this society should be to raise healthy and happy children who will grow into concerned and involved adults who care about their fellow citizens and environment. In order to accomplish this goal, all children must receive a good basic education and in order to achieve that goal, children must arrive at school, ready to learn. There is an epidemic of childhood obesity and obesity is often prevalent among poor children. The American Heart Association has some great information about Physical Activity and Children                                                                                                                     

Unfortunately, many low-income children are having access to physical activities at school reduced because of the current recession.

Sandy Slater is reporting in the Education Nation article, Low-Income Schools Are Less Likely to Have Daily Recess

Here’s what we know:

• Children aged six to 17 should get at least one hour of daily physical activity, yet less than half of kids aged six to 11 get that much exercise. And as kids get older, they’re even less active.

• The National Association of Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) recommends that elementary school students get an average of 50 minutes of activity each school day – at least 150 minutes of PE per week and 20 minutes of daily recess.

• Kids who are more active perform better academically.

As a researcher and a parent, I’m very interested in improving our understanding of how school policies and practices impact kids’ opportunities to be active at school. My colleagues and I recently conducted a study to examine the impact of state laws and school district policies on PE and recess in public elementary schools across the country.

During the 2006 to 2007 and 2008 to 2009 school years, we received surveys from 1,761 school principals in 47 states. We found:

• On average, less than one in five schools offered 150 minutes of PE per week.

• Schools in states with policies that encouraged daily recess were more likely to offer third grade students the recommended 20 minutes of recess daily.

• Schools serving more children at highest risk for obesity (i.e. black and Latino children and those from lower-income families) were less likely to have daily recess than were schools serving predominantly white students and higher-income students.

• Schools that offered 150 minutes of weekly PE were less likely also to offer 20 minutes of daily recess, and vice versa. This suggests that schools are substituting one opportunity for another instead of providing the recommended amount of both.

• Schools with a longer day were more likely to meet the national recommendations for both PE and recess.                     

The gap between the wealthiest and the majority is society is also showing up in education opportunities and access to basic health care.   Just how important physical activity is was hinted at in the study, A Parent-Focused Intervention to Reduce Infant Obesity Risk Behaviors: A Randomized Trial.

Tara Healy writes in the Daily RX article, Exploring Parent Education to Reduce Obesity:

Child obesity happens for many different reasons. These include TV time, diet, physical activity, genetics and other issues. Changing some of these may help reduce risk of obesity.

A recent study sought to find out whether special parenting classes might help reduce risk factors for obesity in babies.

The researchers found the children of parents who took the classes did drink fewer juices and soft drinks. They also ate fewer sweet snacks and watched less TV.

However, about a year later, the babies’ weight and level of physical activity was not any different than that of children of parents who did not have the classes.

The experiment appeared to reduce some of the behaviors related to obesity but not others….

The researchers included 542 parents and their babies, at an average age of 4 months, in the study.

During a 15-month period, half the parents were given six 2-hour sessions with dietitians, and the other half were sent six newsletters in the mail.

The dietitian sessions focused on teaching parents information and skills related to feeding, diet, physical activity and television viewing for infants. The newsletters sent to the other group dealt with issues unrelated to obesity or obesity factors.

The researchers collected information from the parents when the children were 4 months old, 9 months old and 20 months old. They gathered information about the children’s diet based on what had been eaten in the past 24 hours and the children’s physical activity based on activity monitors the children wore.

The researchers also gathered information from the parents on their children’s television viewing time and the kids’ body mass index scores (BMI). BMI is a ratio of a child’s height and weight used to determine if they are a healthy weight.

When the kids were 9 months old, the researchers found that the children of parents in the dietitian group drank fewer fruit juices and soft drinks and were generally about half as likely to have these drinks at all as compared to the children of parents in the newsletter group

By the end of the study, when the kids were 20 months old, the children of parents in the dietitian group ate about 4 fewer grams of sweet snacks daily and watched about 16 minutes less of TV each day, compared to the other group of children.

Overall, however, there was not much differences among the children in both groups when it came to the amount of fruits, vegetables, non-sweet snacks or water the children consumed. There was also no difference among the kids in either group in terms of physical activity and BMI.

Therefore, the intervention appeared to decrease the amount of TV children watched and the amount of sweet snacks they had. However, it didn’t affect how much exercise they got or their weight.

The researchers said it’s possible that the intervention (the dietitian sessions) needs to be designed differently to focus more on physical activity.

Still, more television time, more sweet snacks and more sweet drinks are all associated with a higher risk of obesity among children. These factors were lower in the group who attended the meetings.


A Parent-Focused Intervention to Reduce Infant Obesity Risk Behaviors: A Randomized Trial

  1. 1.     Karen J. Campbell, PhDa,
  2. 2.     Sandrine Lioret, PhDa,
  3. 3.     Sarah A. McNaughton, PhDa,
  4. 4.     David A. Crawford, PhDa,
  5. 5.     Jo Salmon, PhDa,
  6. 6.     Kylie Ball, PhDa,
  7. 7.     Zoe McCallum, PhDb,
  8. 8.     Bibi E. Gerner, MPHc,
  9. 9.     Alison C. Spence, PhDa,
  10. 10.  Adrian J. Cameron, PhDa,
  11. 11.  Jill A. Hnatiuk, MSca,
  12. 12.  Obioha C. Ukoumunne, PhDd,
  13. 13.  Lisa Gold, PhDe,
  14. 14.  Gavin Abbott, PhDa, and
  15. 15.  Kylie D. Hesketh, PhDa

+ Author Affiliations

  1. 1.     aCentre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research, and
  2. 2.     eDeakin Health Economics, Deakin University, Burwood, Australia;
  3. 3.     bDepartment of Paediatrics, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia;
  4. 4.     cCentre for Community Child Health, Royal Children’s Hospital, Parkville, Australia; and
  5. 5.     dPenninsula Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care, Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Exeter, Exeter, United Kingdom


OBJECTIVE: To assess the effectiveness of a parent-focused intervention on infants’ obesity-risk behaviors and BMI.

METHODS: This cluster randomized controlled trial recruited 542 parents and their infants (mean age 3.8 months at baseline) from 62 first-time parent groups. Parents were offered six 2-hour dietitian-delivered sessions over 15 months focusing on parental knowledge, skills, and social support around infant feeding, diet, physical activity, and television viewing. Control group parents received 6 newsletters on nonobesity-focused themes; all parents received usual care from child health nurses. The primary outcomes of interest were child diet (3 × 24-hour diet recalls), child physical activity (accelerometry), and child TV viewing (parent report). Secondary outcomes included BMI z-scores (measured). Data were collected when children were 4, 9, and 20 months of age.

RESULTS: Unadjusted analyses showed that, compared with controls, intervention group children consumed fewer grams of noncore drinks (mean difference = –4.45; 95% confidence interval [CI]: –7.92 to –0.99; P = .01) and were less likely to consume any noncore drinks (odds ratio = 0.48; 95% CI: 0.24 to 0.95; P = .034) midintervention (mean age 9 months). At intervention conclusion (mean age 19.8 months), intervention group children consumed fewer grams of sweet snacks (mean difference = –3.69; 95% CI: –6.41 to –0.96; P = .008) and viewed fewer daily minutes of television (mean difference = –15.97: 95% CI: –25.97 to –5.96; P = .002). There was little statistical evidence of differences in fruit, vegetable, savory snack, or water consumption or in BMI z-scores or physical activity.

CONCLUSIONS: This intervention resulted in reductions in sweet snack consumption and television viewing in 20-month-old children.

  1. 1.    Published online March 4, 2013

    (doi: 10.1542/peds.2012-2576)

  2. » Abstract
  3. Full Text (PDF)

Physically fit children are not only healthier, but are better able to perform in school.


Louisiana study: Fit children score higher on standardized tests

School dinner programs: Trying to reduce the number of hungry children

Children, body image, bullying, and eating disorders

The Healthy Schools Coalition fights for school-based efforts to combat obesity

Seattle Research Institute study about outside play

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