Public Health Nutrition

Research Paper

Downward trends in the prevalence of childhood overweight in the setting of 12-year school- and community-based programmes

Monique Romona1 c1, Agnes Lommeza2, Muriel Taffleta3, Arnaud Basdevanta4, Jean Michel Opperta4, Jean Louis Bressona5, Pierre Ducimetièrea3, Marie Aline Charlesa3 and Jean Michel Borysa2

a1 Lille 2 University Hospital, Service de Nutrition, EA2694, Faculté de Médecine, Place de Verdun, F-59045 Lille Cedex, France

a2 The Fleurbaix–Laventie Ville Santé Association, Laventie, France

a3 INSERM Unit 780/Université Paris Sud, Villejuif, France

a4 Université Pierre et Marie Curie/Department of Nutrition, Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital (AP-HP)/Human Nutrition Centre Ile-de-France (CRNH-IdF), Paris, France

a5 Hôpital des Enfants Malades, Paris, France


Objective A school-based nutrition information programme was initiated in 1992 in two towns in northern France (Fleurbaix and Laventie, FL) and was followed by a number of community-based interventions. We took the opportunity to measure the outcomes in terms of childhood obesity and overweight over the next 12 years.

Design Repeated, cross-sectional, school-based survey. For the school years beginning in 1992, 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2004, the height and weight of all 5- to 12-year-old children attending school were measured in FL. In 2004, the same assessments were made in two comparison towns with similar socio-economic characteristics but no intervention.

Setting Fleurbaix and Laventie (intervention towns), Bois-Grenier and Violaines (comparison towns), northern France.

Subjects In 2002, 2003 and 2004, respectively 515, 592 and 633 children were measured in FL (participation rate of 95–98 % of all eligible individuals); in the comparison towns, 349 children were measured in the 2004 school year (98 % of the towns’ school population).

Results After an initial increase, trends in mean BMI and prevalence of overweight started to reverse. Compared with 2002, the age-adjusted OR for overweight in FL was significantly lower in 2003 and 2004 (but for girls only). In the 2004 school year, the overweight prevalence was significantly lower in FL (8·8 %) than in the comparison towns (17·8 %, P < 0·0001).

Conclusion These data suggest that, over a long period of time, interventions targeting a variety of population groups can have synergistic effects on overweight prevalence. This gives hope that it is possible to reverse trends towards increasing overweight by actions at the community level.

(Received January 18 2008)

(Accepted October 28 2008)


c1 Corresponding author: Email