When children are young, parents, teachers, and other adults do whatever they can to help them grow healthy and strong — both physically and mentally. And this includes starting programs that focus on serious problems, like obesity prevention. Unfortunately, a recent study has found that there needs to be more nutrition and physical activity programs for young children and families, especially programs that are culturally adapted and bilingual.
The Rutgers study, which was published in the journal PLOS ONE looked at 34 studies of obesity prevention programs. These programs spanned throughout pregnancy, infancy, and preschool.
According to the lead author, Sheri Volger, “The studies show that most healthcare system initiatives did not improve childhood growth trajectories and that culturally adapted, bilingual nutrition and physical activity programs were more beneficial to children and their families. We also discovered there is little research on the cost-effectiveness of these programs and how much it actually costs to implement these prevention strategies.”
The researchers found that less than half of the obesity prevention programs looked at for the study actually focused on promoting appropriate weight in young children. And furthermore, only some of the studies worked at improving certain weight- and health-related behaviors, like serving healthy snacks and limiting the amount of time children spent on electronic devices.
There are a lot of health concerns among children that need to be addressed early on. This is especially true with the National Commission on Vision and Health showing that one in four kids between the ages of five and 17 have some sort of vision impairment. But in the U.S., about 14% of preschool-aged children are considered obese — the highest rates being found in low-income racial minority homes.
Most of the obesity prevention studies did focus on preschool years, with 80% if the studies occurring during preschool. Additionally, about 63% of the studies took place in childcare education settings in low-income areas. However, only 42% of the studies showed significant results when it comes to lowering the BMI of children facing obesity.
These results go to show that obesity prevention programs need to continue after preschool and need to involve the entire family when possible. Group sessions and workshops were shown to be the most successful when it came to actually lowering BMI scores.
So while creating a multinational school identity can help students in the globalization of the 21st century, this study found that more needs to be done to help the health of preschool-aged children. This is especially important among lower-income families who may not have access to the right food or amenities.
The researchers noted that future studies could focus on the cost and effectiveness of multi-level obesity prevention policies.