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Encouraging results in French EPODE Pilot towns

image 3The highlight of the recent Congress of French EPODE Towns, held in Vitré on 27–28 May 2010, in the presence of Mme Roselyne Bachelot, Minister for Health and Sport (pictured left with Dr JM Borys), was the presentation of encouraging results for the prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity.

by Dr Jean-Michel Borys,


Data collected from twenty-three thousand children

In the eight French EPODE pilot towns of Asnières-sur-Seine, Beauvais, Béziers, Evreux, Meyzieu, Roubaix, Royan and Vitré, more than twenty-three thousand children, in age groups 4–5 through to 11–12, had their height and weight measured annually between 2005 and 2009 by school health professionals (school nurses and doctors).

Analysis of the data was carried out by the Centre of Biostatistics at the Lille University Regional Hospital Centre. The data were first analyzed globally and then the location of the schools was taken into account, i.e whether they were in deprived or non-deprived areas.

Significant achievements in French EPODE pilot towns

While recent data available in France at national level show an overall stabilization in the prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity, results from the French EPODE pilot towns show a significant decrease in overweight and obesity: 9.12% between the years 2005 and 2009, i.e. a reduction from 20.6% in 2005 to 18.8% in 2009 (p<0.0001). Prevalence in overweight decreased from 15.8% in 2005 to 14.4% in 2009 (p<0.0001) and prevalence in obesity decreased from 4.8% in 2005 to 4.4% in 2009 (p=0,056).  

What has become apparent from recent French national-level data, however, is the difference indicated in the varying socio-demographic characteristics of families, with children from disadvantaged households showing an increase in the prevalence of overweight and obesity. Interestingly, an encouraging development in EPODE pilot towns indicates that children who attend schools located in deprived areas, rather than showing an increase in the prevalence of overweight and obesity, as shown at national level, show instead a downward trend of 2% (non-significant, p=0.3845) in the prevalence of childhood overweight (including obesity): from 23.7% in 2005 to 23.1% in 2009.

Without establishing a direct cause-and-effect relationship, the results of these eight EPODE pilot towns demonstrate an encouraging overall decrease in childhood overweight and obesity. This gives further indication of the necessity to continue the development and application of EPODE methodology in countries at local and national level, so that the growing health problem of overweight and obesity in children can continue to be addressed.

Thoughts for the future

It has become apparent from the data collected that from the earliest age, continued action in the prevention of the development of overweight and obesity in children is essential. Similarly, with children where the prevalence of overweight and obesity remains high in less advantaged populations, action targeting this particular group remains a priority. These actions need to be adapted to further encourage input from the actors involved who are familiar with the daily life of families participating in EPODE.

The data collected was shared and discussed during the third EEN Board Meeting in Stockholm, Sweden on 11 July 2010. The meeting ran in parallel with the International Congress on Obesity (ICO), which also took place in Stockholm.

EEN Newsletter N°5 – September 2010