Jul 02, 2013
NEW RESEARCH SHOWS SHAPE UP SOMERVILLE PROGRAM’S SUCCESS IN COMBATING CHILD OBESITY
Latest results published in Preventive Medicine bolster City’s community-based healthy living initiative
- Newly released research results show that the City of Somerville's Shape Up
Somerville program's community-based approach to combating child obesity yields
from the first two school years of the Shape Up Somerville: Eat Smart Play Hard
initiative showed fewer Somerville children targeted by the intervention were
obese or overweight compared to children in two similar control communities,
according to research from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy
at Tufts University and Tufts University School of
the Body Mass Index (BMI) z-score measure that accounts for both height and age
of the child, researchers found that BMI z-scores decreased by 0.06 in the 335
Somerville children in the intervention group of first through third graders, a
modest reduction in weight gain compared to the 693 children in the communities
that did not receive the intervention. The results have been published online and
in the print edition of the journal Preventive
Christina D. Economos from the Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition,
who convened the intervention and study, said, "These results are more
meaningful than the modest reduction in weight gain suggests. The early years
of elementary school are when we expect children to gain weight as they grow.
What's driving the child obesity rate is pervasive unhealthy weight gain in
children at a young age, particularly in low-income and often culturally
diverse communities where access and availability of healthy food and physical
activity options are limited."
20-month intervention engaged the entire community, from parents and teachers
to school food service and City departments to local businesses and
organizations. School lunch menus were reworked to provide healthier options,
opportunities for physical activity for students during the day were increased,
and additional initiatives such as working with local restaurants to offer
healthier menu items were undertaken.
"The initial study's blueprint told us that making the
healthy choice the easy choice required a community-based effort, holistically
addressing the systems that shape our environment," Somerville Mayor Joseph A.
Curtatone said. "A top-down plan cannot address the needs of a diverse
community. It cannot sustain over the long haul, because leadership has limited
time to devote to any single program, and leadership also changes over time.
Cultivating a strong grassroots effort is the only way to see an effort like
this take root, sustain and grow."
took the reins of the program after the first school year of the intervention and
has continued on ever since:
Somerville Public Schools no longer have trans
fats, fryolators or chocolate milk and serve lean meats and whole grains, unlimited
fresh fruits and vegetables at lunch and low-fat dairy.
Students participate in physical activity before
school, during school and after school through a "walking school bus" program,
in-class programs and structured recess time, and creative after-school
The City has invested in its transportation infrastructure
including bike lanes and improved crosswalks and walking routes and has since earned
recognition as the 10th most walkable and 8th most
bikeable city in the nation. Renovations of existing parks and the
establishment of new parks, along with the City's Open Streets Initiative,
promote and support active living by inviting people out of their homes and
into public spaces.
The healthy food retailer program Shape Up
Approved now has more than 50 restaurants enrolled.
Fresh, local produce available through the
Somerville Mobile Farmers' Market has increased access to affordable, healthy
foods across the City. The Mobile Farmers' Market operates at the Mystic
Housing Development and Clarendon Hill Housing at North Street, as well as the
Council on Aging Holland Street center, accepting EBT, WIC and Farmers' Market
Coupons. Residents of the housing developments and anyone receiving food
assistance purchase items at half price.
has a robust school garden and community garden program and launched an Urban
Agriculture Initiative in 2012 as well including sponsoring the city's first
urban farm with partner Groundworks Somerville, which also runs the school
"Everyone must be invested, transforming their own
spheres of influence to transform our environment," said Mayor Curtatone.
"We've now seen, time and time again, that if we can give people ubiquitous and
accessible options, they will choose to eat healthier, get active and live