To determine whether education about nutrition and other healthy lifestyle choices helps obese children, ProMedica Advocacy began conducting a pilot study in fall 2013 that features four family meetings with a dietitian in a 12-month period for each of about 80 participants.
Each child’s body mass index (BMI) and responses to a health questionnaire will be compared before, during and after the series of free family meetings. Results of the pilot study are expected to be completed in late 2014.
The pilot study is being conducted by Chloe Berdan, MS, RD, LD, a clinical dietitian with ProMedica Advocacy and Community Health, and Michelle Boose, MD, MPH, a ProMedica Physicians family practitioner and medical director for ProMedica Advocacy and Community Health. Obesity is one of the key health-related areas being addressed by ProMedica Advocacy.
In Lucas County, which includes Toledo, 7% of fifth and sixth graders were obese, according to the 2011 Lucas County Health Assessment report. The report has been done every four years by Healthy Lucas County, a group that includes ProMedica, the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department, the Hospital Council of Northwest Ohio, and others.
Among seventh and eighth graders in Lucas County, 11% were obese, while 15% of high school students were, according to the report. Meanwhile, 37% of Lucas County fifth and sixth graders were trying to lose weight, while 42% of those in seventh grade through high school were, it said.
“We hope to determine positive methods for improving the health of Toledo’s youth,” Dr. Boose said. “We want to reverse the growth of childhood obesity in Toledo and elsewhere nationwide.”
Childhood Obesity on the Rise
Throughout the country, the percentage of children and adolescents who are classified as being obese has risen significantly over the last 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obesity at a young age is likely to continue into adulthood and contribute to greater risk for a variety of health problems. Research has shown that proper nutrition and physical activity are key components of obesity prevention and treatment, Berdan noted.
“Healthy eating, exercise and reduced time spent in front of the television or computer can make a real difference in a child’s weight,” Berdan said. “Our pilot study is geared toward helping youth and their families make healthy lifestyle choices that will last a lifetime.”
Among Lucas County students in seventh grade through high school, the 2011 Lucas County Health Assessment report also showed:
- 83% drank milk every day.
- 44% recently exercised to lose weight.
- 26% recently ate less food, fewer calories or foods lower in fat to lose weight.
- 12% had at least five daily servings of vegetables.
- 6% recently went without eating for 24 hours to lose weight.
- 2% recently vomited or took laxatives to lose weight.
- 2% recently took diet pills, powders or liquids without a doctor’s advice to lose weight.
“It is so important to encourage these positive behaviors in youth, such as increasing fruit and vegetable intake and getting adequate activity every day,” Berdan said. “But we also have to address these risky dieting behaviors – including not eating all day – that can have lasting health consequences.”
Pilot Program Begins Recruitment
Approximately 80 children and adolescents who have a BMI that classifies them as obese will be recruited for ProMedica Advocacy’s pilot study. ProMedica Physicians pediatric clinics and the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department are helping to recruit young participants and their families, who will meet with a dietitian in a doctor’s office or other outpatient setting.
The pilot study’s key counseling messages were adapted from the research-based messages of the MyPlate program, developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the We Can!® program, developed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.