TEEN HEALTH Published July30, 2015 By Staff Writer

School Weight Screenings for Teens Don’t Curb Obesity

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Teens who are overweight are shown walking for exercise. A study has found that weight screening programs in schools may not help teens lose weight.
(Photo : Justin Sullivan, Getty Images )

Weight screenings conducted in high school are apparently not enough to get overweight and obese kids get down to a healthier weight, according to a study.

In 2003, Arkansas started a weight screening program in schools in 2003 as a way to deal with soaring rates of obesity. The programs would send alerts to parents of teens with weight problems. But kids who were screened in early high school and again in their junior and senior years did not seem to benefit compared to kids who were exempt from screening, the study found. There does not appear to be any evidence that the screenings are effective at reducing the rate of obesity.

The study looked at data from nearly 1,100 students who participated in the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which was administered each year between 2003 and 2009. Students answered questions and estimated their own height and weight. They were also asked about their exercise habits and their diets. The researchers then analyzed how students' weight and health habits changed between 10th grade and 12th grade. This information was compared to the pattern of weight changes seen in students who opted out of the screening over the same period.

There were no significantly different changes between the two groups for weight gain, exercise level, or dietary habits. More than half of all teens were at a healthy weight in both groups. However, the percentage of obese teens decreased and the percentage of overweight teens increased during the two years of the study. The study also found that most teens did not eat one or more servings of fruits or vegetables per day. Although screenings did not have a significant effect on weight in this study, the researchers said that they may be useful for alerting parents who do not have access to health checkups for their children.

Rates of teenage obesity have more than quadrupled in the last 30 years and now more than one in five teens is obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

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