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Anti-obesity program fails to reduce BMI’s of girls in low-income areas

An Australian-based program to tackle obesity has failed to reduce the Body Mass Index (BMI)’s of adolescent girls in disadvantaged areas.

Researchers from the University of Newcastle conducted a year-long study with a trial group, which aimed to prevent girls living in low-income communities from becoming overweight.

Funded by a grant from the Australian research Council and published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, the study included 357 girls aged 12 to 14 years.

Of those girls, 148 received a program that included increased school sport sessions, physical activity during lunchtime, nutrition workshops and text messaging for social support.

After 12 months on the program, BMI’s showed some positive changes, but were not statistically any different from those in the control group.

In March, a similar program was launched by the Murdoch Children’s Institute (MCRI), and tapped into the mobile and internet technology in an attempt to reach teenagers with the anti-obesity message.

The participants, aged between 12 and 17, will have their height, weight, blood pressure and waist circumference measured when they sign up, with follow-ups at three, six and 12 months.

They will undertake 12 one-hour online sessions which will include motivational messages, information on healthy lifestyles and also have access to a confidential chat room where they log their food diary and levels of activity.

Last month, a US study found conclusive evidence that the community where a child lives will impact their chances of becoming obese.

Lead author of the study, Dr David R. Lubans said this study resulted similar findings.  

 “The intervention effects on body composition were small and not statistically significant but have potential clinical importance,” he said.

“Girls in the intervention group spent 30 minutes per day less in screen-based activities than their control group peers.

“High levels of screen time are associated with a range of adverse health consequences, and our findings have important implications that may help address the increasing burden of pediatric and adolescent obesity observed in areas of social and economic disadvantage.”

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