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Planet Health

Blueprints Program Rating: Promising

A two-year school-based health behavior intervention designed to reduce obesity among students in grades 6-8 by increasing energy expenditure while promoting key dietary behaviors.

Program Outcomes

  • Obesity

Program Type

  • School - Individual Strategies

Program Setting

  • School

Continuum of Intervention

  • Universal Prevention (Entire Population)


  • Early Adolescence (12-14) - Middle School


  • Male and Female


  • All Race/Ethnicity


  • Blueprints: Promising

Program Information Contact

Steven Gortmaker
Harvard Center for Children's Health
Harvard School of Public Health
677 Huntington Ave. 7th Floor
Boston, MA 02115
Harvard Prevention Research Ctr: (617) 384-8919

Program Developer/Owner

  • Steven Gortmaker
  • Harvard School of Public Health

Brief Description of the Program

The Planet Health program is a two-year intervention designed to reduce obesity by increasing energy expenditure while promoting key dietary behaviors. The curriculum introduces and reinforces five simple health messages or goals: 1) Be physically active every day; 2) Limit your screen time to no more than two hours per day; 3) Eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables (combined) daily; 4) Eat more whole grains and less added sugar; and 5) Eat foods low in saturated fat and containing no trans fat. The Planet Health curriculum includes teacher training workshops, classroom lessons, PE materials and wellness sessions. Classroom components are designed to fit into 45-minute periods and are designed to be inter-disciplinary. Each program theme is addressed in one lesson per subject (language arts, math, science and social studies) for a total of 16 core lessons each in year 1 and year 2, for a total of 32 lessons.

See: Full Description


Gortmaker et al. (1999)

  • The Planet Health intervention significantly reduced obesity among girls in the intervention schools, when compared to the control conditions.
  • The Planet Health intervention did not significantly reduce obesity among boys.
  • Planet Health girls reduced dietary intake, increased fruit and vegetable consumption and viewed less television than control girls.

Austin et al. (2005)

  • Girls in Planet Health intervention schools were less than half as likely to report purging or using diet pills at post-test compared with girls in control schools.

Race/Ethnicity/Gender Details

The program influenced obesity outcomes for girls but not for boys. There is some evidence that the program works better for African American girls than white or Hispanic girls.

Risk and Protective Factors

Protective Factors
  • Individual: Exercise

Training and Technical Assistance

Professional Development for Teachers
Teacher training focuses on understanding how to effectively implement Planet Health into the middle school classroom. Training includes formal presentations on the U.S. trends in nutrition, physical activity, and inactivity; the importance of including schools in nutrition and physical activity efforts; how to use the Planet Health curriculum; and the core nutrition and physical activity messages. There are also opportunities for teachers to discuss concerns about students’ nutrition and physical activity and how to frame conversations with youth about these topics. Teachers can be trained in the Planet Health curriculum through the following activities:

  • Planet Health Introductory Workshop Training: The Harvard School of Public Health Prevention Research Center can coordinate on-site training as was provided in the research trial on a case-by-case basis. Separate trainings are available for classroom teachers (3 hours of training) and physical education teachers (5 hours of training). The total cost of a day-long training that includes sessions for classroom and physical education teachers is $400 (plus travel). Staff from up to five middle schools may be included in one training day.
  • Self-guided training: PowerPoint training slides are available free of charge on the Harvard School of Public Health Prevention Research Center website for programs who choose to conduct their own local training on Planet Health.

Please note that self-guided training is not certified by Blueprints and was not used in the evaluated studies.

Brief Evaluation Methodology

Evaluation of the Planet Health intervention involved a randomized, controlled trial with 5 intervention and 5 control schools. The sample included 1,295 students from public schools in four urban Boston (MA) communities. Planet Health sessions were delivered within existing curricula using classroom teachers. Lessons focused on decreasing television viewing and consumption of high-fat foods, while increasing fruit/vegetable intake and physical activity. Data were collected over two years: baseline data was collected on a cohort of students at the beginning of grades 6 and 7 in fall 1995, with post-test data collected in spring 1997 (grades 7 and 8).


Austin, S., Field, A., Wiecha, J., Peterson, K., & Gortmaker, S. (2005). The impact of a school-based obesity prevention trial on disordered weight-control behaviors in early adolescent girls. Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine, 159, 225-230.

Gortmaker, S. Peterson, K., Wiecha, J., Sobol, A., Dixit, S., Fox, M., & Laird, N. (1999). Reducing obesity via a school-based interdisciplinary intervention among youth. Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine, 153, 409-418.