School scheme unable to boost healthy eating and activity

A school-based scheme to encourage children to eat healthily and be active has had little effect, conclude DECIPHer researchers in a study published in the BMJ.

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The findings suggest more intensive interventions may be required, and have relevance for researchers, policy makers, public health practitioners and doctors. A team led by Professor Debbie Lawlor at the University of Bristol investigated the effectiveness of Active for Life Year 5 (AFLY5), a school-based intervention to increase physical activity, reduce sedentary behaviour, and increase fruit and vegetable consumption in children.

The researchers found no evidence that the intervention increased time spent in moderate or vigorous physical activity or reduced time spent in sedentary behaviour when both were assessed using accelerometers. There was also no effect on child reported fruit and vegetable consumption.

Further analysis found that the intervention was effective in reducing child reported time spent in front of a screen at weekends and self reported consumption of snacks and high energy drinks.

Despite being one of the largest trials in this area to date, and taking account of limitations of previous trials, the authors conclude that the AFLY5 intervention ‘is not effective at increasing levels of physical activity, decreasing sedentary behaviour, and increasing fruit and vegetable consumption in primary school children’.

They suggest that a change in these activities ‘may require more intensive behavioural interventions with children or upstream interventions at the family and societal level, as well as at the school environmental level’.

The research article is available, open access, here.

Image: WSilver