Happy Goat Family

A Scalable Family Strategy for Childhood Obesity

In the midst of a preoccupation with telling parents that their children have a weight problem, it’s refreshing to hear from people offering a scalable family strategy for actually helping with overweight and obesity in children. Even better, these folks have published a study providing real evidence from a randomized, controlled experiment to show that it can help better than usual care over a two-year period. The study appears in Pediatrics.

Rachael Taylor and colleagues randomized 206 children aged four to eight years with mostly mild to moderate overweight and obesity to receive either usual care or a tailored program of low-intensity care. In the usual care group, parents and children met with a trained researcher at the beginning of the study for 30-45 minutes to receive individualized feedback and general advice about healthy eating, physical activity, and sleep. They had a followup appointment after six months and total contact time in the two years of the study was 45 to 75 minutes.

In the active care group, families and children met once with a multidisciplinary team to develop specific goals for each family and then met monthly with a mentor for 12 months. In the second year of the study, meetings were every third month. Total contact time was six to seven hours per family.

After 24 months, children in the active care group had lower BMI, BMI z score, and waist circumference. They consumed more fruits and vegetables and less “noncore” (i.e. junk) foods. They were more physically active.

This matters for a simple reason — it offers a simple, scalable template for providing help to families and children with obesity. As such, it’s miles better than screening programs that offer only finger wagging or generalized advice about eating better and moving more.

Best of all, there’s evidence that it actually works for more than a year. If we’re lucky, health plans will catch on and start providing for such services.

Click here to read the study.

Happy Goat Family, photograph © bagsgroove / flickr

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July 23, 2015