In a new study published in the April issue of Childhood Obesity, Dr. Gina Tripicchio, assistant professor of social and behavioral sciences in the Temple University College of Public Health, and a team of researchers enrolled 46 children aged 2-16 who were classified as overweight (BMI greater than 85th percentile) into a family-based behavioral group (FBBG) treatment program housed in a pediatric clinic. In the program, participants attended 12 weekly sessions that focused on ways to modify lifestyle and behavior to improve physical activity and diet.
In addition, participants received follow-up visits with their physician for the year following the sessions. Researchers recorded weight changes through the one-year follow up and compared the results to those who completed the program only (and did not receive a year of follow-up). They measured the change in BMI percentage of the 95th percentile, which allowed them to look at subgroups of severe obesity in a depth that standard BMI measurements do not.
They found that program participants showed significantly better retention after a year compared to standard treatment programs; in addition, physician visit attendance increased, and children who completed the program had significant reduction in BMI percentage of the 95th percentile. Despite this improvement, changes were not significant enough for a child to change from severe obesity to moderate obesity classifications, suggesting that the program may not be sufficient for children with severe obesity.
While other studies have explored the impact of FBBG programs on pediatric obesity, Dr. Tripicchio’s is one of the few to focus on low-income minority populations.
“Generally, low-income families are less likely to participate in research,” wrote Dr. Tripicchio. “Parents in these populations are also less likely to recognize child weight issues and, consequently, are less likely to participate in treatment programs. Programs are often time-intensive and costly to operate, and attrition rates among at-risk populations are high. Therefore, strategies are needed to improve the reach, retention, and impact in populations most in need.”
Read more from Temple’s department of social and behavioral sciences.