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Public Program Helps Cut Kids' TV Time

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THURSDAY, June 30 (HealthDay News) -- Experts have long known that "couch potato" habits, including TV-watching, help drive obesity in children and adults alike.

Now, a new study finds that public health initiatives can successfully deliver an anti-obesity message that convinces at least some low-income, preschool children to watch less TV.

The University of Washington study included staff and families in the Washington State Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), which provides food, nutrition counseling and health referrals for low-income women and their children.

Using posters and group sessions, the Washington State WIC included a message urging people to watch less television as part of a program encouraging families to eat more meals together and get more exercise.

Before the start of the program, a survey of families in the Washington State WIC found that 64 percent said their children watched two hours or less of TV a day. Six months later, that figure was 70 percent.

In another heartening statistic, the researchers report that, before the program began, 65 percent of the WIC families surveyed said they never watched TV during meals. That number increased to 69 percent after six months of the program.

The findings suggest that "it is feasible to deliver television-reduction messages in large public health programs," study author Donna Johnson said in a prepared statement.

The study appears in the current issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about childhood obesity.

SOURCE: American Journal of Health Promotion, news release, June 22, 2005
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