Family Intervention Reduces Childhood Obesity in 2-Year Study

Lara C. Pullen, PhD

July 21, 2015

A pediatric obesity intervention that focused on frequent, low-dose family support was able to effectively reduce excess weight in mild to moderately overweight children. The intervention and the weight loss occurred during a 2-year study.

Rachael W. Taylor, PhD, from the University of Otago in New Zealand, and colleagues published the results of their randomized trial online July 20 and in the August issue of Pediatrics. The study included 206 children between the ages of 4 and 8 years who had a body mass index (BMI) in the 85th percentile or higher.

The children were recruited at a weight screening initiative. Many of the children who were selected for inclusion in the study had parents who were initially unaware their children were overweight.

The researchers randomly assigned families to either the tailored package (TP) treatment group, which provided parents with personalized, brief monthly support, or the usual care (UC) group. Parents in both groups were informed that their children were overweight.

The investigators retained 88% of the children through the 2 years of the study. At 2 years, the intervention was associated with a significantly lower BMI score relative to control and a significant BMI z score of 0.12.

The investigators found that children in the TP group not only had smaller gains in BMI than controls but were also more physically active and had improved diets. The researchers were unable, however, to document any differences in parental behaviors (ie, parental feeding practices, ineffective parenting, or household chaos) between the two groups.

The study was designed to include UC instead of wait-list as the comparator group, and the investigators went to some length to explain and justify their study design.

"Our use of UC as the comparator rather than a wait-list control might have also contributed to the intervention differences observed, given that both groups received an intervention. However, Janicke et al recently demonstrated that type of control group (standard care vs wait-list control) was not a significant moderator variable in obesity treatment trials. We chose to provide our own 'UC' rather than encouraging participants to visit their general practitioner, so that we could ensure participants received the same intervention," the authors write.

They conclude by suggesting that such an intervention could be incorporated into the primary care setting.

The authors have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

Pediatrics. 2015;136:281-289. Abstract

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