Overweight and Obesity in Young Children: A Critical Period for Intervention

Saturday, 26 July 2014: 4:30 PM

Department of Family and Community Health Nursing, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA

Background and Significance: While there has been a surge in prevalence rates of overweight and obese children over the last three decades; recent epidemiological data suggest that the trends have stabilized for all child age groups except preschool-aged children. Furthermore, the increase in the prevalence of obesity across child age groups continues to be the greatest between the preschool and school-age groups; underscoring the importance of intervening with young children.

Purpose: The purpose of the study was to appreciate the effect of a parent-focused intervention conducted in an office setting on child (4-8 years of age) anthropometric and behavioral outcomes.

Methods: Following IRB approval, study recruitment and baseline assessments, parent-child dyads (N = 60) were randomly assigned to either the treatment or control condition. Four intervention sessions were conducted with the parents in their child’s healthcare office. The impact of the intervention was evaluated by assessing child anthropometric (e.g., waist, waist-by-height ratio, BMI) and behavioral measures (e.g., internalizing and externalizing behaviors) immediately, 3, and 6 months following the intervention period.

Results: ANOVA models suggested that children in the experimental group were found to have significantly reduced waist circumference and waist-by-height ratio immediately following the intervention that persisted for 3 and 6 months. BMI and BMI percentile decreased over time but was not differentially affected. The internalizing scores decreased significantly following the intervention but there were not significant differences 3-, or 6-months later. The parent-reported externalizing behaviors of hyperactivity and aggression significantly decreased at each time point when compared with baseline.

Conclusion: Specific child weight-related and behavioral factors have been found to be reliably predictive of adult obesity and can be identified during adiposity rebound suggesting that this may be a critical period related to weight development. This intervention demonstrated arrest of obesity-related anthropometric measures and improved child behavioral changes.