Katherine Kahn, DVM

November 07, 2006

November 7, 2006 (Boston) — A novel, multidisciplinary childhood obesity intervention program helps children adopt healthier eating habits, increase their physical activity, and maintain or improve their body mass index (BMI), a new study reveals. Di P. Lam, RD, presented data from the pilot program, KP Kids, here at the 134th annual meeting of the American Public Health Association. Ms. Lam is an educator with Kaiser Permanente Healthcare Organization in Los Angeles, California.

Ms. Lam told Medscape that what makes this program unique is the multidisciplinary approach to its design and delivery. "We involved pediatricians, registered dietitians, registered nurses, exercise physiologists, and behaviorists in developing and teaching this program," she said.

The program enrolled more than 500 participants. Sixty percent were girls, and the mean age of participants was 9.08 years. Forty-five percent were Hispanic, 26% were white, 7% were African American, 12% were biracial, and 5% were Pacific Islander. Almost 72% of participants completed the program.

The program involved parents and children attending 6 weekly educational sessions, 1.5 hours in length, during which 30 minutes each were devoted to physical activity, nutrition, and behavior change education. Nutrition sessions included information about planning meals, age-specific meal plans, label reading, and preparing healthy foods. Behavioral sessions focused on implementing change, setting goals, and developing new habits. In addition, parents received information about obesity and its complications.

The researchers followed up the participants at 1, 6, and 12 months after the last educational session. Results at 6 months revealed statistically significant changes in children's behavior. Fruits and vegetables consumed increased from 2.3 to 2.8 servings ( P < .01) and soda and fruit juice consumption decreased from 2 to 1.54 servings per day ( P < .05). Junk food consumption decreased ( P < .01), and hours spent watching TV or playing video games decreased from 3.1 to 2.92 hours ( P < .01). Children increased their hours of exercise per week from 2.25 to 2.55 hours ( P < .05).

In addition to these changes, the BMI percentile of the group improved at the 6-month follow-up, while a control group showed an increase in BMI percentile.

The 1-year follow-up did not show that these differences were maintained over time, however.

Mary Tierney, MD, senior research analyst at the American Institutes of Research, commented to Medscape on childhood obesity intervention programs. "The problem of implementing these programs is often one of time and logistics. However, a number of physicians are aware of these programs and will refer patients to them."

While Dr. Tierney acknowledged the usefulness of the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for children on exercise, TV watching, and healthy eating, she said that time is often the most limiting factor when clinicians attempt to educate parents and children on healthy behaviors. "What would be really useful...would be the development of quick, easy-to-use guidelines," she said.

Ms. Lam told Medscape that the most effective way to implement evidence-based multidisciplinary prevention programs may be through community-based outreach. "Currently we are working on developing programs at the local YMCA and family clinic. Instead of having the people come to us, if we go to the community and do our outreach there, we can reach more people that way."

APHA 133rd Annual Meeting: Abstract 129078. Presented November 6, 2006.

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