Research indicates that obesity is the global epidemic of the 21st century, especially due to its prevalent growth and health implications. In Mexico, the prevalence of overweight and obesity increased by 9%, from 61% to 70% from 1999 to 2006. The whole population, including both adults and school children, showed an increase in the number of overweight individual, making it one of the countries with the highest prevalence of overweight and obesity population.
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There are a few projects that are underway in Mexico, to help curb the growth of the sombre public health predicament. A study was conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of a diet and physical activity strategy among school age children in the State of Mexico, referred to as “Nutrition on the Go” to maintain BMI, as a basis for establishing public health policy (Levy, et, al, 2012).
The method used involved a randomized field trial using fifth grade elementary school children in 60 Mexican schools. Subjects were participants of a school breakfast program in both federal and state educational systems with morning and evening shifts. The strategy involved: a gradual decrease of the energy content of school breakfasts; gradual regulation of food offered within the school; gradual adherence to the physical activity program; and implementation of an educational campaign, called “Healthy Break,” for healthy eating and physical activity. The objectives of this program were to promote consuming one fruit and one vegetable, drinking pure water and performing physical activity (organized games and calisthenics) during break.
A baseline test was conducted in all schools to establish the initial characteristics of intervention and control groups. Information was also obtained related to anthropometrics, socioeconomic level, food, physical activity, self-efficacy and knowledge. The same information was obtained for the final evaluation (Levy, et, al, 2012).
The variables measured included: body composition, whereby the body mass index was determined by measuring both weigh and weight; and behaviour outcomes by examining food intake, physical activity, knowledge, self-efficacy and expectations, using questionnaires. The main finding of the study was that the strategy “Nutrition on the Go” had a small but statistically significant effect on reducing the probability of shifting from the overweight to the obesity category after 6 months of intervention. The study indicated that interventions are most effective for females when they include social aspects and for males when they involve physical activity. Moreover, self-efficacy and children’s perception about their own ability to perform physical activity and healthy eating is now considered to be more related to changes in behaviour related to obesity risk factors (Levy, et, al, 2012).
One of the limitations of the study was that it was conducted only in the school environment, where children are present for 4.5 half hours, so larger effects could not be expected since children spent the rest of the day in obesigenic environments. Another limitation was the duration of the intervention, which lasted only 6 months; a longer intervention is needed in order to observe the impacts. Nonetheless, previous reports show that intervention lengths for some studies ranged from 9 weeks to 3 years and that intervention of all durations successfully reduced obesity among overweight or obese children (Levy, et, al, 2012).
The study indicated that the “Nutrition on the Go” strategy was effective for maintaining the BMI of school children. The authors suggest that policies for interventions to prevent obesity in schools in Mexico should consider changes within the school environment itself through actions such as improving physical education classes and creating more aggressive nutrition policies. For greater impact, the inclusion of parents and teachers is recommended, as well as government officials, communities and civil society as elements in healthy lifestyles as well as the development and welfare of society (Levy, et, al, 2012).
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Levy, T., Carmen M., Claudia A., Araceli S., Alejandra J. and Ignacio M. (2012). Effectiveness of a diet and physical activity promotion strategy on the prevention of obesity in Mexican school children, BMC Public Health, 12(152). Web.