Monday, June 28, 2010

An Intense Program to Reduce Overweight and Obesity Among Children: Minutes From a Disappointed School Board

Corpulencia School District
Business/Work Session Minutes
June 28, 2010

Call of Meeting to Order: Vera Lardy called the meeting to order at 6:03 PM

Roll Call of Board Members: The following members were present: Max Podgy, Seymour Gross and Anita Diet. The following members were absent: Barry Atric (in the hospital getting surgery)

Action Items: The Board considered instituting a school based program aimed at reducing the prevalence of obesity and overweight among the 6th grade school population. In particular, it examined a state-of-the-art program that was reviewed in the New England Journal of Medicine. This was a huge two year study involving 42 Hispanic/Black or highly Federally food subsidized school districts (half of which were assigned to an intervention group, the other served as controls). While Board Members were encouraged to read the protocol for themselves, Ms. Lardy summarized the study. The 21 intervention schools 1) improved the food choices in the cafeteria, vending machines and even fundraisers, 2) promoted exercise targeting specified amounts of time designed to increase the heart rate to 130, 3) used a behavioral intervention to encourage lifestyle choices and 4) reinforced it all with posters and public address message scripts.

Board members unanimously voiced support for the program until they found out how the intervention schools fared compared to the controls. BOTH the intervention and the control schools had a decrease in the prevalence of overweight and obese children. There was an absolute decrease of about 4% in both groups that failed to show a statistically significant change favoring the intervention group.

Statistical significance was achieved in reducing the prevalence of just obesity. The intervention schools went from about 30% to 24.6% while the control groups went from about 30% to 26.6%. Because the study was also aimed at reducing the likelihood of future diabetes in these children, the authors also studied changes involving insulin levels and blood glucose levels, most of which also failed to achieve statistical significance.

Mr Podgy shared his impression that much of the news media makes it sound like eating more veggies and getting more exercise will practically cure obesity. 4% is disappointing. Mr. Gross said that Ms. Obama's campaign sure tastes great but is less filling in terms of a satisfying return on investment for taxpayers; would they be satisfied with a 4% rate? Ms. Diet observed that combating obesity will take years, but perhaps the prevalence of obesity has leveled off. Everyone agreed that in the current fiscal environment, the likelihood of funding intense school-based programs like this, given the success rate, is pretty low.

Adjournment: On that depressing note, Mr. Gross made a motion to adjourn and it was seconded by Ms. Diet. The meeting was adjourned over soda and donuts.

(any reference to any persons living or dead or any school boards, except for the part about soda and donuts is completely unintentional)

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