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Three U.S. Cities to Replicate Successful Childhood Obesity Prevention Program

Mar 24, 2008

Tufts University in Boston is expanding a childhood obesity prevention program that first piloted in Somerville, Mass., to three additional U.S. cities, the St. Petersburg Times reports. University researchers developed the three-year "Shape Up" program to reduce overweight among Somerville children by modifying their diets to include more fruit and low-fat milk and less sugar. To encourage physical activity, meanwhile, the city repainted crosswalks and employed other strategies to improve the town's walkability. Given the program's success in reducing weight gain among children in first through third grades, the university is funding Shape Up programs for Largo, Fla., and two other cities with demographics similar to Somerville. Through the Children in Balance initiative, Largo has received a $300,000 grant for efforts targeting students in grades 1-3. Although planning is still in the early stages, officials expect the project to include posting signs in schools that teach nutrition lessons, adding healthy a la carte items with a nutrition rating system and implementing monthly school-based nutrition education programs. In all three cities, food service managers from participating schools also will attend one Children in Balance professional development day each year. The programs will run until spring 2010, and researchers will track students' weight to evaluate the success of each replicated program (Lee, St. Petersburg Times, 3/21/08). (Editor's Note: Somerville, Mass., has received financial support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through its Active Living by Design and Healthy Eating by Design programs.)

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