Background Childhood obesity and related health consequences continue to be major clinical and public health issues in the US and abroad. Healthier Options for Public Schoolchildren (HOPS) was a school-based obesity prevention intervention with nutrition and physical activity components implemented in the elementary school setting and targeting 6–12 year olds.
Methods HOPS was implemented in August, 2004 through December 2009, and included approximately 3,200 children (48% Hispanic) attending four elementary schools in Florida. Demographic, anthropometric (height, weight, body mass index [BMI]) and academic (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test [FCAT]) were collected during the school year. Interventions included modified dietary offerings, nutrition and lifestyle educational curricula, school gardens, and other school-based wellness projects.
Results Repeated measures analysis showed over a three year study period the intervention Z weight scores decreased significantly among boys (0.81 to 0.71, P<0.001) with a trend among girls (0.56 to 0.51, P<0.07). Within ethnicity, a significant decrease in Z weight score for Hispanics (0.66 to 0.59 P<0.01) and whites (0.62 to 0.54, p<0.02) was shown. Over the same time period, FCAT math scores improved significantly among girls (308 to 319, p<0.001) and reading scores improved significantly among boys (299 to 307, P<0.01). Within ethnicity, Hispanics significantly improved both FCAT math (298 to 309, p<0.001) and reading (286 to 301, p<0.0001) scores.
Conclusions School-based obesity prevention interventions including nutrition and physical activity components show promise in improving health and academic performance in elementary-aged children longitudinally, especially among Hispanics.