Intended for healthcare professionals


The failure of anti-obesity programmes in schools

BMJ 2018; 360 doi: (Published 07 February 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;360:k507
  1. Melissa Wake, professor and scientific director, Generation Victoria
  1. Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, and The University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC 3052, Australia
  1. melissa.wake{at}

Null results are important, and a strong signal to try something else

In the words of Winston Churchill, “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” In this issue of The BMJ, Adab and colleagues (doi:10.1136/bmj.k211) do just that.1 They report on a beautiful strategy delivered through schools to prevent childhood obesity. Their trial found no substantive difference between intervention and control children on anthropometric or dietary measures or on physical activity. The null results are convincing.

The authors’ multicomponent intervention was the embodiment of good sense, focusing on healthy eating and physical activity, including daily additional physical activity opportunities in schools, a physical activity skill based programme in conjunction with local sporting heroes, regular mailed information to parents about local opportunities for physical activity, and workshops at schools on healthy cooking for families. The authors’ cluster randomised trial exemplifies rigour: true …

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