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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU: Empowerment Program Can Prevent Childhood Obesity

A new, first-of-its-kind pilot study led by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers reduces sugary drink consumption and obesity risk with an empowerment strategy based on youth-produced narratives.

In the study, published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, participants in the pilot program at the Boys and Girls Club (BGC) of Worcester, MA., and their parents consumed fewer sugary drinks and more water over a six-month period than children and parents at a demographically-similar BGC in a nearby city.

“Youth created their own narratives around why it was important for them — not their parents, teachers, or researchers like myself — to change the types of beverages they were drinking,” says study lead author Dr. Monica Wang, assistant professor of community health sciences at BUSPH. “This type of empowerment strategy recognizes youth as experts in their own lives, and may be particularly engaging for youth of color.”

After a training from Dr. Wang and her colleagues, BGC staff in the pilot study led an ethnically-diverse group of nine- to twelve-year-olds in activities that promoted replacing sugar-sweetened beverages with water, including blind taste tests of flavored water, a corner store scavenger hunt, and role play skits about ways to drink water and what to do when tempted by sugary drinks.

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