Early Intervention May Prevent Eating Disorders. (School-Based Program)

Article excerpt

BOSTON -- Prevention of behaviors associated with eating disorders remains a highly desirable but elusive goal. Positive results with a school-based intervention suggest that it may be worthwhile to start early and use an indirect approach, S. Bryn Austin, Sc.D., said at a meeting of the Academy for Eating Disorders.

A 2-year middle-school program achieved a significant reduction in disordered eating behaviors, such as purging to maintain weight, in those girls who were not dieting at the outset of the study, said Dr. Austin of Children's Hospital, Boston.

Generally, the average age of onset of eating disorders tends to be middle to late adolescence, but disordered behavior may begin earlier: 8% of high school girls report vomiting or using laxatives to control weight in the prior 30 days.

Dr. Austin described a study involving a school-based program named Planet Health. The program's primary aims are to improve diet, reduce obesity, increase physical activity, and reduce television watching in children in middle school. The program consists of 33 classroom lessons and 33 physical education lessons, which are given over the course of 2 school years.

In the study, 10 schools, enrolling roughly 1,300 children in grades 6 and 7, were randomized to participate in Planet Health or in a control condition.

Overall, the impact of the intervention was greater in girls than boys: Obesity and TV viewing declined, and fruit and vegetable consumption rose. …