A UCLA study has found that a new parent-training program is effective in reducing the risk of low-income, preschool-age Latino children being overweight. Researchers found that after one year, there was a 9-percent reduction in overweight and obese children; a control group that did not receive training had a 16-percent increase in overweight and obese children.
"This is the first pilot intervention study that reversed the weight gain seen in preschool Latino children living in low-income families," says Wendy Slusser, M.D., director of the Fit for Healthy Weight program. "The intervention was unique because it blended nutrition, physical activity and parenting topics that were delivered in a participatory manner and where mothers learned from each other and practiced the skills at home."
The findings were reported in Childhood Obesity. Overweight and obesity rates among preschoolers aged 2 to 5 are high, with disparities evident among racial and ethnic groups: 28 percent of Mexican American preschoolers are obese or overweight, as are 26 percent of African Americans and 17 percent of Caucasians. Preventing obesity in Latino children can have major public-health benefits, given that Latinos are among the groups with the highest risk of developing obesity and its associated conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension.
The randomized, controlled study evaluated the culturally sensitive parent-training intervention, which consisted of one-and-a-half-hour classes once a week for seven weeks, along with two booster sessions, given one month apart. The control group was wait-listed and given a standard informational nutritional pamphlet, and later was offered the parent-training classes after the one-year follow-up.
The study addressed the risks and causes of obesity in low-income Latino children. The evaluation assessed the effectiveness of the seven-week intervention, contrasting children receiving parent training with wait-listed subjects. The study evaluated changes in body-mass index (BMI) percentiles over time for the two conditions in a longitudinal design.
The authors concluded that the combination of parent training and nutrition education administered to low-income mothers of preschool-age Latino children can reverse the anticipated curve of increased BMI scores for at least one year after the start of treatment.