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School Health Programs can Improve Students’ Health

Update Date: Apr 25, 2014 03:38 PM EDT

Young children and teenagers are particularly vulnerable in developing many dangerous habits, which range from tobacco and alcohol to poor nutrition. In order to address these risks, several programs have been created in schools. Even though not all programs are successful, a new study found that school health programs, in particular, could improve children's nutrition.

"Traditionally we have had health education in schools, but the result of those efforts has been disappointing," said Kelli Komro, a professor of health outcomes and policy in the University of Florida College of Medicine and associate director of UF's Institute for Child Health Policy. "It is not only the curriculum that helps, but it also takes changing the school environment and the social environment so that it supports health-promoting behaviors, and linking all of this to families and communities to ensure there are coordinated messages."

For this study, the researchers analyzed data gathered from 67 studies that were focused on schools that used the World Health Organization's (WHO) health-promoting program. The program taught schools how to use different techniques in getting children, schools and parents to work together and promote a healthier overall lifestyle. The studies involved 1,345 schools and 98 schools districts. 40 percent of the schools were from the United States.

The researchers found that schools that adopted the programs were more effective in helping students lower their body mass index (BMI), which measures obesity by calculating weight in relation to height. These schools were also successful in boosting physical activity rates, and fruit and vegetable consumption while reducing smoking and bullying rates.

"There are multiple interventions that were being examined in these studies. All of them meet the framework for a health-promoting school, which includes three main components-educating students, creating healthy social and physical environments and reaching out to families and communities," Komro said according to Medical Xpress. "Overall, I think the results of the study are promising. When prevention efforts are coordinated and comprehensive, prevention works."

The study was published in The Cochrane Library.

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