A study published in the medical journal BMJ Open gives support to the use of family-based behavioral intervention for managing childhood obesity. This approach actively involves family members in changing the behaviors of their obese child to assist with weight loss efforts. Previous studies have shown the importance of family participation and behavioral changes in the management of childhood obesity. Treatment programs involving cognitive behavioral therapy and family involvement are often done in a specialized setting though, making it difficult to provide for all families who may need the support. It stands to reason that an outpatient treatment program carried out in a more accessible setting, such as a primary care environment, would be beneficial for families with obese children.
Researchers in Sweden investigated whether a family-based behavioral intervention in an outpatient setting would be effective in the management of childhood obesity. The intervention was carried out by regular nurses and dieticians.
A total of 26 obese children and their parents agreed to participate in the study. One family dropped out after the intervention began. The children met in group sessions separately from their parents 25 times over a two year period. The goals of the intervention included how to promote a healthier lifestyle and overcome obstacles related to weight loss efforts. Diet, exercise, and changes in the children’s eating and physical activity habits were discussed during the group sessions. Parents were also presented with food recipes and health information related to obesity.
After three months of the intervention program a decrease in z-BMI – a standardized body mass index adjusted for age and gender – was measured. And one year after the intervention ended a 12% mean decrease in z-BMI was seen, demonstrating the potential for long term benefits from the intervention.
Because of the small sample size and lack of a control group, it was not possible to attribute the decreased z-BMI solely to participation in the intervention. The results appear encouraging though. They fall in line with other studies that have demonstrated promising results using cognitive behavioral therapy and family-based intervention for the treatment of childhood obesity.
The authors concluded that a larger trial with a control group and a longer follow-up period will be needed to confirm the effectiveness of the family-based behavioral intervention program used in this study.
Teder M, Mo¨relius E,Bolme P, et al. Family-based behavioural intervention programme for obese children: a feasibility study.BMJ Open 2012;2:e000268.doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2011-000268