In the U.S., nearly one in five kids, ages six to 19, is obese. Now, a new study by researchers at Vanderbilt University medical center looks at the impact of community-based programs in disadvantaged neighborhoods.
Dinner time for Elvia and her two sons is all about healthy eating, but that wasn’t always the case. The family lives in a community where access to nutritional information is limited.
“I didn’t have a lot of information about sugars, for example,” she said.
Shari Barkin studies pediatric obesity and conducted a study of 610 parents and children. Dr. Barkin wanted to know if you teach parents good health habits, can that change behavior and in turn lower their child’s risk for obesity?
“It was what we called a tiered intervention. that means it started with, weekly, for 12 weeks, skills building sessions,” Dr. Barkin said.
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The sessions were followed by nine months of coaching over the phone. Finally, researchers sent text reminders to keep families active. all together, researchers followed families for three years and found that kids who took part in the intervention group ate 100 calories fewer per day than kids who were in the control group.
“We could slow the emergence of obesity, comparing the intervention versus the comparator group during the active intervention over that one year period of time,” Dr. Barkin added.
Dr. Barkin says it matters that parents and kids improve their habits together. She recommends families use their local parks and rec centers and be consistent. These habits need to be sustained over time by parents and kids.
“We have to consider that prevention starts really early, and you’re never done,” Dr. Barkin stated.
The researchers also say environmental stress might make it hard for people living in disadvantaged neighborhoods to maintain their body weight. Dr. Barkin and her fellow researchers noted that the interventions did not continue to work as effectively during the passive phase of the trial, the point where researchers sent text reminders.