Planet Health Helps Prevent Eating Disorders

Obesity loses to nutrition and exercise

(RxWiki News) Prevention methods for the obesity epidemic are well underway. But, sometimes these techniques can be too forward and have negative side effects like children developing eating disorders.

The obesity epidemic is plaguing many adults and even children now. But, addressing those problems might be causing problems elsewhere. Some children take it into their own hands to solve their weight problems.

"Planet Health helps lower obesity rates and eating disorders."

S. Bryn Austin, Sc.D., an epidemiologist in Children's Hospital Boston's Division of Adolescent Medicine, along with teammate, Li Yan Wang, a Center for Disease health economist, performed a study to understand how effective Planet Health would be on children's' well being.

Planet Health was developed at Harvard School of Public Health. It is a curriculum that helps teachers guide middle school students to choosing healthier lifestyles. The curriculum consists of nutrition education, physical education and limiting television time.

There is even a self-assessment tool for students - known as FitCheck.

The study included 10 Massachusetts middle schools where five of the schools adopted the Planet Health curriculum. The other five were used as controls.

The researchers found that obesity prevalence dropped in schools that implemented Planet Health, while schools that did not start it had increased rates of obesity. Overweight girls who received Planet Health education were twice as likely to reach a healthy weight over two years.

Those girls were also half as likely to develop unhealthy weight management behaviors like purging or using diet pills as girls who did not receive Planet Health education.

Helping to prevent eating disorders was not expected from the study, but is definitely a good outcome, Austin says. The same experiment was conducted with different schools and had the same results.

The same protective effect against eating disorders was seen in a different set of schools, Austin comments.

Eating disorders are common and can develop in adolescence. This plan helps protect children against developing eating disorders while teaching them the importance of eating healthy, exercising and watching less TV.

Not only is this plan helpful to children, it also cuts health care costs, Austin says. If this plan expanded to 100 schools, then the healthcare system could save over $680,000, Austin adds.

The research is published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Review Date: 
August 4, 2011