Obesity Prevention Among Low-Income Preschool-Aged Children

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Childhood obesity is a serious health problem and disproportionately affects children of lower income and racial/ethnic minorities.

Contributing factors to childhood obesity include the neighborhood environment, social influences, economic factors, the home environment, parenting behaviors, and child behavioral and biological factors. Previous pediatric obesity prevention interventions have been less effective than expected, perhaps in part due to the multifaceted nature of the problem.

Drs. Simone French and Nancy Sherwood, both professors in the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, led the NET-Works study, which was recently published in the American Journal of Public Health. The goal of the study was to integrate home visiting, community-based parenting classes, primary care provider interactions and neighborhood connection strategies to support low-income, racially and ethnically diverse parents to prevent obesity among their preschool-aged children.

The NET-Works trial made unique contribution to the pediatric obesity prevention research area because of its community-based interventions, focus on low-income preschool-aged children, and multi-level intervention that includes home visiting, parenting classes, community links and pediatric primary care.

Participants were recruited in partnership with 12 Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota primary care clinics that serve diverse populations. Five hundred thirty-four children were randomized over an 18-month period. Fifty-eight percent of the children were Hispanic and 62.9 percent had annual household incomes of less than $25,000 per year.

The NET-Works program consisted of home visiting, community-based parenting classes and telephone check-in calls. Referrals to community resources for healthy foods and physical activity opportunities were embedded in the home visiting and parenting class components. The home visit setting enabled behavior and home environment change strategies to be tailored for individual families, while the parenting class setting provided group support for behavior changes.

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Source: University of Minnesota