Community-based programs to halt childhood obesity are gaining popularity as schools, local governments, parents and health clubs work together to help children slim down and eat more healthfully.

First lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign has helped push the issue to the forefront.

But some interventions may be working better than others, according to a study presented this week at the International Congress on Obesity in Stockholm. Researchers studied the success of three three-year community intervention programs, each targeting a different age group of more than 1,000 children — those younger than 5, primary school-age children and teens. Each group had a similar control population that received no intervention.

The interventions targeted healthful eating and physical activity, and included strategies to continue the community programs once after the study.

Children younger than 5 had the best results. This group included 12,000 children in preschools, day care facilities, homes and maternal and child health services. After three years, the prevalence of overweight or obese children was about 3 percent lower than in the control group.

Children in the primary school group didn't see any reductions in overweight or obesity levels, but weight gain rates did slow. After three years, the children gained about 2 pounds less on average than their intervention-less counterparts.

Interventions in the teen group, which were done in Australia, Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand, had varying results. Australian teens (who were mostly of European ancestry) lost weight, but those in other countries who were from the Pacific Islands or were of Indian heritage showed mixed outcomes.

"Once you get to high school-aged children, trying to implement an intervention at the whole community level becomes more difficult," Boyd Swinburn, the director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Obesity Prevention at Deakin University in Australia, who presented the study, said in a statement.


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