NEW ORLEANS — From kindergarten through grade 2, the prevalence of overweight and obesity increases in American children — but only during summer vacations, not during the school year, according to a new study presented at Obesity Week 2016 and simultaneously published in Obesity.
During the school months in each of the 3 school years studied, there was a significant, slight decline in rates of obese children and a non-significant slight reduction in rates of overweight children, which suggests that school policies aimed at reducing childhood obesity — such as increasing physical activity, providing healthy lunches, or banning soda — may be protective.
But the research highlights the need to look beyond the school year, stressed lead author Paul T von Hippel, PhD, associate professor of public affairs at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas, in Austin.
“This is not to say that school-based policies can’t be effective, but we need to [also] think about trying to change children’s behavior when they are not in school,” he urged. “We need to educate parents about nutrition, reduce child screen time, and regulate food marketing and advertising” aimed at children.
Sending more children to summer camps or learning programs, for example, could potentially help lower rates of childhood obesity, he suggested.
“My own experience with childhood obesity ended when I went to [a theater-arts] camp at age 8,” he related.
“The message for practitioners is, you need to talk to the parents. If they have a child at risk, they need to know that the summer months may be an especially at-risk time,” session comoderator Donna H Ryan, MD, professor emeritus at Pennington Biomedical Research Center, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and associate editor in chief of Obesity, told Medscape Medical News.
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