Kids develop comic book characters to fight flab

August 4th, 2011 - 7:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Aug 4 (IANS) Looking to tackle ills like childhood obesity, researchers came up with the idea of asking children to create their own comic book characters on the theme of health. And the results have been encouraging.

The project was based on Paul Branscum’s doctoral research at the University of Cincinnati, challenging 71 third, fourth and fifth-grade students to create their own comic books with health messages.

“Comic books can do a lot of neat things,” says Branscum, who has since completed his doctorate, according to a Cincinnati statement.

“One of the things that I like about them is that they can explain complicated issues in a way that people can understand, by combining words and pictures,” adds Branscum.

Students were asked to think of real and fictional characters when they wrote their stories and to combine four healthy behaviours into their creations and lifestyles.

They involved participating in an hour of daily physical activity, consuming five daily servings of fruits and vegetables, besides sugar-free drinks and water instead of sugar-sweetened drinks and limiting TV, video games to two hours.

The study was conducted over a three-month period. The gender breakdown of the group was about even. Branscum says the children’s Body Mass Index (BMI-height to weight ratio) remained about the same following the project.

However, he says three behaviours — consuming more fruits and vegetables, physical activity and consuming water and sugar-free drinks — “increased significantly throughout the programme”.

Furthermore, Branscum says the children reported increased confidence in their ability to select health-related behaviours.

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