School obesity-prevention program may reduce medical costs

School-based programs that teach middle schoolers about healthy foods, encourage less TV and other screen time, and urge more physical activity can reduce eating disorders among girls and help save on medical costs, according to a study co-authored by Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) associate professor S. Bryn Austin.

Analyzing data from a mid-1990s study on Planet Health—an HSPH-developed health promotion/obesity prevention program for middle school children—Austin, who is also a social epidemiologist at Children’s Hospital Boston, and health economist Li Yan Wang of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, estimated that the program saved about $14,000 in medical costs by averting the costs of treating obesity and eating disorders. They also estimated that expanding Planet Health to 100 schools could save the health care system about $680,000.

The study was published in the August issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

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Read the Children’s Hospital press release

Read coverage in the Boston Globe

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Overweight Prevention Program May Cut Risk of Eating Disorders Among Girls (HSPH release)

Planet Health