Young children and their families in poor communities were able to make some achievable and sustainable behavioral changes during the longest and largest obesity prevention intervention, but, in the end, the results were insufficient to prevent early childhood obesity.

The results of the Growing Right Onto Wellness (GROW) trial, released today in JAMA, showed a short-term reduction in obesity that diminished over the 3-year study period even in the face of improved, sustained nutrition and use of neighborhood recreation centers.

Principal investigator Shari Barkin, MD, director of Pediatric Obesity Research at Monroe Carell Jr Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, said the amount of behavioral change likely needs to increase to be successful, but it remains unclear what would be enough to prevent childhood obesity in underserved, low-income populations—those most at risk for obesity and its long-term health consequences.

“The interventions, even for prevention, likely need to be intense and active for longer periods of time,” Barkin said. “We tested a tiered intervention consistent with adult obesity treatment trials, but childhood obesity prevention for underserved families might require sustained highly active interventions.”

A total of 610 parent-preschool child pairs, 90% of whom were Hispanic, received high-dose behavioral intervention during the 3-year study period. The children were at risk for obesity, but not yet obese.

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