Research Aims to Fight Childhood Obesity through Family Approach

Jul. 26, 2016
URMC will receive $1.5 million as part of multi-site study

UR Medicine’s Golisano Children’s Hospital is joining several other universities on one of the largest family-based childhood obesity studies ever conducted.

Working with the University of Buffalo, Washington University in St. Louis, and Nationwide Children’s Hospital at Ohio State University, the study will discern the effectiveness of a treatment program that teaches both a child and their parents how to change their behaviors and attitudes regarding food, exercise, and stressful situations. This method deviates from traditional efforts that emphasize patient education.

The treatment program will be integrated into the primary care setting, potentially allowing the intervention to be widely adopted by pediatricians and family physicians. The study is supported by $9.6 million from the National Institutes of Health, of which Rochester will receive $1.5 million.

“At least 4 percent of children and teens have what is considered severe obesity,” said Stephen Cook, M.D., associate professor of Pediatrics at UR Medicine’s Golisano Children’s Hospital and the study’s lead researcher locally. “This program will help them get their weight under control through a change in mindset and by behavior change for  the child and family that targets problem solving mechanisms.”

The study will involve over 600 families of children between the ages of 6 and 12. Past studies have shown that this type of behavioral approach can carry a “halo effect,” with other family members often seeing benefit as well, which researchers will track.

The intervention meets the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation for childhood obesity treatment, which means that if it is implemented broadly, it should be covered by insurers in pursuance to the Affordable Care Act.

Cook’s team will begin recruiting locally in early 2017. At least five local pediatric practices are expected to participate in addition to Strong Pediatrics: Rochester General Pediatric Associates, Elmwood Avenue Pediatrics, Long Pond Pediatrics, Panorama Pediatrics, and Genesis Pediatrics.