In-Home Weight-Management Coaching Benefits Children and Parents

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Families Who Got Only Educational Materials Saw Kids Gain Significant Amounts of Weight
Released: Thursday, June 06, 2019

Baton Rouge, Louisiana -- An in-home weight-management program that included coaching improved the health of children and their parents, while children whose families received only educational materials gained significant amounts of weight.

The results of the new study were published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

"Parents typically are the most important and influential people in a child’s environment," said authors Keely Hawkins, PhD, and Corby K. Martin, PhD, of LSU's Pennington Biomedical Research Center.  "Adding this weight-management strategy to existing state and federal home visitation programs could help address the current childhood obesity crisis."

Obese children are four times more likely to become obese adults, making childhood obesity a significant health threat.  

Sixteen families participated in the study and were recruited from the community based on the child’s obesity risk. Children 2-6 years of age with a body mass index greater than the 75th percentile enrolled. Families were randomly assigned to receive health information only or the DRIVE intervention. 

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“Our parents know how to eat healthily, but what often trips them up is mastering the strong emotions and habits that drive food choices in today’s society,” said Allison Davis, project manager and coach.

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The DRIVE curriculum was provided during 15 in-person sessions in the family's home. Sessions were 30 minutes long, during which parents and children practiced healthy daily routines, including establishing regular snack and mealtimes, reducing screen time, and encouraging physically active play. Each session focused on a single health topic such as portion size, food preparation, how to discuss weight and growth concerns with the pediatrician, and effective parenting strategies. The group that did not receive in-home visits was mailed information on nutrition, physical activity, and parent-child interaction at the beginning of the study.

Children in the DRIVE intervention maintained their body weight with a modest reduction in body mass index over the 19 weeks of the study, while the children who received health education significantly increased their body weight and body mass index. Additionally, parents who participated in the DRIVE sessions also decreased their body weight.

The study also reported that all 16 families completed the program. This level of participation is much higher than programs delivered through clinics or community programs, which can see as many as 75 percent of attendees leave the classes. There are many federal and state services already being provided through home-based visitation programs and this curriculum could be a valuable addition to those efforts.

Dr. Hawkins and Dr. Martin shared, "Our results showed that at the half-way point of the study, children were becoming healthier. Changes in the health of the parents, though, did not happen until the end of the study. This points to the need for long-term, family-based programs to support behavior change."

DRIVE was supported by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. This work was performed at the Pennington Biomedical Nutrition Obesity Research Center and partially funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) through grants P30DK072476 and T32DK064584 and the Louisiana Clinical and Translational Science Center, funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences through grant U54GM104940.  The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.


About the Pennington Biomedical Research Center

The Pennington Biomedical Research Center is at the forefront of medical discovery as it relates to understanding the triggers of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia. The Center conducts basic, clinical, and population research, and is affiliated with Louisiana State University. The research enterprise at Pennington Biomedical includes over 450 employees within a network of 40 clinics and research laboratories, and 13 highly specialized core service facilities. Its scientists and physician/scientists are supported by research trainees, lab technicians, nurses, dietitians, and other support personnel. Pennington Biomedical is located in state-of-the-art research facilities on a 222-acre campus in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.