September 01, 2011
1 min read

Integrated obesity prevention programs appear effective for middle-schoolers

Wang LY. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2011;165:756-762.

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Educational programs that focus on obesity and eating disorder prevention appear to be effective when integrated into middle-school curriculum, and the researchers of a new study said these types of programs should be implemented into more schools.

Results of a study by Li Yan Wang, MBA, MA, and colleagues show that the economic effect of an intervention program designed to promote healthful nutrition and physical activity actually accomplished more than obesity prevention.

The program used in the study, Planet Health, is an interdisciplinary school-based obesity prevention intervention that focuses on preventing disordered weight-control behaviors in early adolescence and “is not only more cost-effective than previously assessed but also generates net savings to society when the other cost savings (ie, loss of productivity costs) are not even considered,” the researchers concluded in a recent issue of the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.

An estimated 3% to 5% of young women reportedly have partial- or full-syndrome bulimia nervosa. Partial-syndrome bulimia nervosa, which typically begins in adolescence, includes binge eating, purging or using diet pills. Full-syndrome bulimia may manifest increased levels of anxiety, impulsivity and self-injury. Disordered weight-control behaviors include purging or using diet pills, and are often positively associated with overweight and obesity in adolescents.

In the study of 254 girls aged 10 to 14 years, an estimated one case of bulimia nervosa would have been prevented, totaling an estimated $33,999 in medical costs, and 0.7 quality-adjusted life years would be saved. This equals a net savings of $14,238 and a gain of 4.8 quality-adjusted life years compared with the typical intervention cost of $46,803 for obesity and disordered weight-control behaviors.

The current study supports an earlier study of the economic effect of Planet Health that estimated $27,042 in medical costs and 4.1 quality-adjusted life years would be saved by the program by prevention and reduction of obesity among adolescent girls.

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures. Funding for the study was provided through a grant from the Leadership Education in Adolescent Health Project, Maternal and Child Health Bureau, HRSA.

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