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Posted February 11, 2009

Advancing obesity prevention

<p>Research on school-based prevention of obesity named one of '08's major advances in research by the American Heart Association</p>
Photo by Joseph V. Labolito/Temple University Students at a North Philadelphia elementary school identify stores in their community with healthy snack options during a nutrition class. The class was one part of a multifaceted school-based project to prevent childhood obesity. The American Heart Association recently named the project one of 2008’s major advances in heart disease research.

The prevalence of obesity among children has caused a rise in their risk of cardiovascular disease, a condition once only a concern for older adults.

While a number of programs exist to fight the problem of childhood obesity, the American Heart Association recently recognized Temple’s research on school-based obesity prevention, published in the April 2008 edition of Pediatrics, as one of only a few to be adequately backed by hard clinical evidence. As a result, the AHA named the study one of the major advances in heart disease and stroke research of 2008.

The study, a partnership between Temple’s Center for Obesity Research Education, The Food Trust and the School District of Philadelphia, was conducted in 10 K-8 Philadelphia schools, with half implementing a multi-faceted nutrition policy including social marketing and family outreach, and the other five serving as a comparison. The study focused on 1,349

students in grades 4-6, and followed them for a two-year period, measuring weight, height and physical activity before and after.

The study found that new cases of overweight children were cut in half in schools that implemented the changes. According to the AHA, “These results suggest that carefully designed, multi-component programs can have an important impact on this serious epidemic.”

“We’re delighted that the AHA has recognized our work and the importance of obesity prevention among children,” said Gary Foster, Ph.D., director of CORE. “We are committed to partnering with community groups and schools to evaluate programs that prevent obesity, the nation’s most significant and prevalent public health problem.”

The AHA has been compiling an annual list of the top 10 major advances in heart disease and stroke research since 1996.

“We have chosen a number of studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of science applied in the real world, from hospitals to schools to whole communities,” said Timothy Gardner, M.D., president of the AHA. “These implementation studies are of increasing importance as we try to determine how best to translate basic and clinical science for the benefit of the public.”

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