Healthy Communities Study findings on relationship between community policies and programs and childhood obesity

The Healthy Communities Study, funded by the National Institutes of Health in 2010, recently published findings in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine that show comprehensive community policies and programs (CPPs) addressing childhood obesity are associated with lower child adiposity.

The study aimed to understand how diet, physical activity, and body mass index (BMI) are related to aspects of CPPs. Researchers recruited 5,138 children and their families in 130 demographically diverse communities across the nation from 2013 to 2015. In each community, study staff assessed the number and characteristics of CPPs implemented over a 10-year span through interviews with key informants and a document review. Children’s height, weight, waist circumference, demographic data, and background characteristics on nutrition and physical activity behaviors were collected by trained staff. To compare the CPPs between communities, an intensity score was developed to measure the strength of CPPs based on behavior change strategy, duration, and reach.

Study results suggest an association between communities with CPPs that targeted more distinct physical activity and nutrition behaviors and lower BMI and smaller waist circumference in children in those communities. The authors concluded, “Healthy weight among children is influenced by conditions that make it easier and more rewarding to engage in multiple behaviors related to physical activity and healthy nutrition.” Comprehensive CPPs provide conditions in which children can easily access and feel motivated to engage in healthy and active behaviors.

The Healthy Communities Study contributes to NCCOR’s aim to identify and assess the relationships between CPPs and childhood obesity, diet, and physical activity to inform public health practice. NCCOR supported the Healthy Communities Study during its development and application review phase because of its emphasis on multilevel and/or multi-component approaches that will strengthen the capacity (e.g., knowledge, skills, tools) to implement evaluations and interventions. NCCOR continues to address questions related to possible drivers and contributors that may be influencing the reported declines in childhood obesity.

Read the Healthy Community Study findings:

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