Families Can Tackle Childhood Obesity

childhood obesityChildhood obesity is a widespread problem within the United States, and while evidence-based behavioral treatments for obesity exist, they rely on regular one-on-one meetings with a trained health coach to complete—something that makes them beyond the reach of many families.[1] Therefore, researchers from Seattle-based Group Health Cooperative have found it feasible and acceptable to give the same type of behavioral treatment to groups of families in primary care settings.1

Paul Lozano, MD, MPH, a Group Health pediatrician and medical director of preventive care published the results of the cooperative’s Family Wellness Program intervention in the Permanente Journal.1 The program recommends that children are screened for obesity from age six, and those who are found to be obese should be referred to intensive behavioral treatment.1 This treatment provides information about healthy eating and physical activity, while it gives parents and children a place to share their experiences and receive social support.1

“Most important, behavioral treatment teaches parents and children skills like tracking their eating and activity, setting goals, and holding themselves accountable for working towards those goals,” said Lozano.1

Behavioral treatment also involves taking a look at the child’s environment—home, school, friends, relatives, etc.—and trying to promote healthy behaviors by making small changes across all of these places where children eat and are active.1

However, although this treatment is proven effective, it’s extremely hard to find.1

“That’s why we set out to adapt family-based behavioral treatment to a real-world setting: in this case, primary care,” Lozano said. “And we found that it was feasible, families liked it, and parents and children lost weight.”1

Lozano continued, “Parents told us that their children’s quality of life improved. For kids, the way we measure quality of life includes experiences like being bullied or excluded, being unable to keep up with other children, and feeling worried or angry. When parents tell us that their kids feel better about themselves in social settings and are happier, that is a tangible benefit of this kind of program.”1

[1] Nauert, R. (2014). Focusing on Families To Tackle Childhood Obesity. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 18, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2014/06/16/focusing-on-families-to-tackle-childhood-obesity/71273.html

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