November 19, 2018
2 min read

Parents can play key role in early pediatric obesity treatment

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Interventional programs that put an emphasis on parental training may be an effective strategy for treating early pediatric obesity, according to a presenter.

Anna Ek

“Children do not need to attend the obesity treatment for treatment to be effective in this young age group,” Anna Ek, PhD, a dietitian and postdoctoral fellow in the division of pediatrics at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, told Endocrine Today. “Treatment should provide sufficient support for parents regarding positive parenting skills supporting healthy lifestyle habits, [and] treatments need to be intensive with regular follow‐up contact with the families.”

Ek and colleagues worked with several child care centers in the county of Stockholm to recruit nearly 200 participating families with at least one child aged 4-6 years; more than half were girls. The majority of parents in the cohort were born outside of Sweden, and fewer than half had some form of higher education.

During the 10-week program, parents attended 1.5-hour weekly sessions on best practices for encouraging better nutrition, physical activity and overall healthier behaviors. The program also included information on portion sizes and reading food labels, with aid from trained dietitians. 

Parents in the study were assigned roughly 1:1:2 to one of three treatment plans: the More or Less program along with phone-based “booster” sessions for the remainder of the study period, the More or Less program with no booster sessions and standard care offered by pediatric clinics. Follow-up assessments were administered at 3, 6 and 12 months, with BMI z score the primary outcome of interest.

The researchers found a significant decrease in BMI z score at all time points for the group that took part in the program and received booster sessions (P < .001). Scores for both the standard care and non-booster groups remained relatively unchanged.

The parent group also had clinically relevant improvements in BMI z score, which in previous research has been shown to improve metabolic health markers in children.

Ek said results persisted when adjusting for sociodemographic factors. Only in the non-booster groups was there any sociodemographic impact, specifically a significant impact of the father’s foreign origin. According to Ek, this emphasized the importance of follow-up visits with these families.

“I think a lot more can be done to offer appropriate support to parents regarding parenting,” Ek said in an interview. “To improve the competence amongst health care personnel regarding what parenting practices to support and how, I believe, would be a step in the right way for the clinics to take.” – by Phil Neuffer


Ek C, et al. T-OR-2031. Presented at: ObesityWeek; Nov. 11-15, 2018; Nashville, Tenn.

Disclosure: Ek reports no relevant financial disclosures.