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Best Practice for Weight Control Targets Preschoolers and Parents

Best Practice for Weight Control Targets Preschoolers and Parents

New research finds a key element in the treatment of overweight and obese preschoolers is parental involvement.

Investigators discovered traditional approaches to overweight prevention and treatment focusing only on the child are outdated, with interventions targeting both parent and child more effective.

The research, conducted at the University at Buffalo and Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo is published in the journal Pediatrics.

Children enrolled in the study were overweight or obese and had one parent who participated in the study who also was overweight or obese.

During the course of the study, children who were treated concurrently with a parent experienced more appropriate weight gain while growing normally in height.

Children in the intervention group gained an average of 12 pounds over 24 months compared to children in the control group who gained almost 16 pounds.

This more appropriate weight accrual resulted in a decrease of 0.21 percent over body mass index (BMI) from baseline to 24 months.

Parents in the intervention group lost an average of 14 pounds, resulting in a BMI decrease of over two units while the weight of parents in the control group was essentially unchanged.

“This study is important because while we know that it is critical to begin treating overweight or obese children early, there has been limited data on what works best in preschool-aged children,” says Teresa A. Quattrin, MD, senior author.

The research was part of Buffalo Healthy Tots, a novel family-based, weight control intervention in preschool children that Quattrin directed in urban and suburban pediatric practices in Western New York.

The intervention was the first of its kind in the U.S. to compare traditional approaches where only the child is treated to family-based, behavioral treatment implemented in pediatric primary care practices.

The study of 96 children ages two to five found that when overweight and obese youth and their parents were treated in a primary care setting with behavioral intervention, parents and children experienced greater decreases in BMI than did the children who received the traditional treatment, focusing only on the child.

Weight loss for both parent and child was sustained after a 12-month followup.

Quattrin notes that an important feature of the study was the use of practice enhancement assistants, trained in psychology, nutrition, or exercise science.

These assistants worked with the families both during treatment and education sessions and afterward by phone.

The intervention was delivered through the parents, who were instructed about the appropriate number of food servings for children and appropriate calorie values.

They were taught to avoid “high-energy” foods, such as those with high sugar content, more than fives grams of fat per serving or artificial sweeteners.

Parents monitored the number of servings in each food category, using a simple diary to cross off icons pertaining to the food consumed or type of physical activity performed.

Parents also were taught to record their own and their child’s weight on a simple graph.

Weight loss goals for children were 0.5 to one pound per week and for parents it was at least one pound per week.

Quattrin says that the study results suggest that overweight or obese children and their parents can be successfully treated in the primary care setting with the assistance of practice enhancers.

“Instead of the more traditional approach of referring these patients to a specialty clinic, the patient-centered medical home in the pediatrician’s office may be an ideal setting for implementing these family-based treatments,” she says.

“We have entered a new era where students, trainees, and specialists have to learn how to better interact with primary care providers and implement care coordination.

This paper suggests that, indeed, family-based strategies for any chronic disorder, including obesity, can be successful in primary care. The pediatrician’s office can become a “family-centered medical home.”

Source: University of Buffalo

Mother and daughter photo by shutterstock.

Best Practice for Weight Control Targets Preschoolers and Parents

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Best Practice for Weight Control Targets Preschoolers and Parents. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 4, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 28 Jul 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.