A UCLA study has found that a new parent-training program is effective in reducing the risk of low-income, preschool-age Latino children being overweight.
Researchers found that after one year, there was a 9 percent reduction in overweight and obese children in the parent-training intervention group, while a control group that did not receive the parent training had a 16 percent increase in overweight and obese children.
“This is the first pilot intervention study that reversed the weight gain seen in preschool Latino children living in low-income families,” said lead author Dr. Wendy Slusser, an associate professor of pediatrics and public health at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the UCLA School of Public Health and director of the Fit for Healthy Weight program at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA. “The intervention was unique because it blended nutrition, physical activity and parenting topics that were delivered in a participatory manner and where mothers learned from each other and practiced the skills at home.”
The findings are reported in the February issue of the journal Childhood Obesity, a special issue celebrating the second anniversary of first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative and highlighting original research focused on advancements in childhood obesity.
Overweight and obesity rates among preschoolers aged 2 to 5 are high, with disparities evident among racial and ethnic groups: 28 percent of Mexican American preschoolers are obsese or overweight, as are 26 percent of African Americans and 17 percent of Caucasians. Preventing obesity in Latino children can have major public health benefits, given that Latinos are among the groups with the highest risk of developing obesity and its associated conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension.
The randomized, controlled study evaluated the culturally sensitive parent-training intervention, which consisted of one-and-a-half–hour classes once a week for seven weeks, along with two booster sessions, given one month apart. The control group was wait-listed and given a standard informational nutritional pamphlet. The control group was offered the parent-training classes after the one-year follow-up.
Obesity is the most prevalent nutritional disorder among children and adolescents in the United States. Approximately 21-24% of American children and adolescents are overweight, and another 16-18% is obese; the prevalence of obesity is highest among specific ethnic groups.
Childhood obesity predisposes to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, liver and renal disease, and reproductive dysfunction. This condition also increases the risk of adult-onset obesity and cardiovascular disease.
Obesity in children is a complex disorder. Its prevalence has increased so significantly in recent years that many consider it a major health concern of the developed world. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) indicates that the prevalence of obesity is increasing in all pediatric age groups, in both sexes, and in various ethnic and racial groups. Many factors, including genetics, environment, metabolism, lifestyle, and eating habits, are believed to play a role in the development of obesity. However, more than 90% of cases are idiopathic; less than 10% are associated with hormonal or genetic causes.
The study addressed the risks and causes of obesity in low-income Latino children and included participants from the Venice Family Clinic’s Simms/Mann Health and Wellness Center and community sites including Los Angeles Unified School District preschools, the Santa Monica Headstart program, the Mar Vista Family Center and the Children’s Bureau.
The evaluation assessed the effectiveness of the seven-week intervention, contrasting children receiving parent training with wait-listed subjects. The study evaluated changes in body-mass index (BMI) percentiles over time for the two conditions in a longitudinal design.