So I saw a video at CNN.com. The title was “Say Goodbye to Obesity” It was late and I was tired so like an idiot I clicked on it.
The gist of the report is that an experiment was published in the Online New England Journal of Medicine. It’s called “The Healthy Study” and the goal was to increase health in children. Is was a 3 year, nationwide health program of school-based interventions. In this study, half of 42 schools adopted healthy food offerings and more PE time. The report tells us that students at the intervention schools kept their “weight down, sugar levels lowered and lowered their body fat”. The program was deemed successful.
Question of the day: What percentage of difference between the two groups would you consider to be successful?
I won’t keep you in suspense. The difference between the intervention schools and the non-intervention schools was 3%. Three. 3.
Let’s see…get out my calculator… carry the four…. Yup, I’m right – the intervention failed 97% of the time. It’s been a while since I was in school but I think you had to do a little better than 3% to get a passing grade back then. Shouldn’t the video have been titled “Study a Big Giant Failure” or at least tempered “Say goodbye to obesity for at least the short term you lucky 3%?”
So I went to the source material and read the actual study – ready to yell at the people who created it. But in the conclusion section they said “Our comprehensive school-based program did not result in greater decreases in the combined prevalence of overweight and obesity than those that occurred in control schools. However, the intervention did result in significantly greater reductions in various indexes of adiposity. These changes may reduce the risk of childhood-onset type 2 diabetes.” If you read further you find that what they were able to do was decrease BMI and insulin levels. I have explained before why BMI is a fairly crap measurement (in the post A Little More Health from our Healthcare) and I won’t go into it again here, but the insulin level is significant because that is an actually measure of how they have affected the children’s health.
However, they were very clear that the study did NOT affect obesity. Which begs the question…why the F would CNN call this video “Say Goodbye to Obesity?” That’s a question I will probably never be able to answer. Here are some more questions that I have:
First, before someone accuses me of being against healthy food and PE, let me say that I’m all for healthy food options and more PE time in schools. I AM FOR CHILDHOOD HEALTH. I am glad that 3% of children were helped by this.
My concern is this: If the schools and CNN are calling this a “success”, what does it say to the 97% of children who did not “succeed” by the study’s own criteria? What do the PE teachers and health teachers say to those 97%? If they are calling the study a success, then aren’t they necessarily calling the 97% who didn’t have experience the study’s desired outcomes failures?
This is why the War on Childhood Obesity is such a problem. I’ve addressed this before in “Dear Michelle Obama – Good Intentions are Not Enough” but I think it bears repeating: let’s be for children’s health instead of against childhood obesity. Let’s support kids to develop healthy habits and high self-esteem in a way that is empowering and fun instead of trying the terrify and shame them.
Its time for a little integrity and calling 97% of children failures so that you can call yourself a success is not the way to go.