Obesity researchers from around Missouri, led by scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, have received a grant to help evaluate and put in place family-focused weight-management programs designed to reduce childhood obesity, particularly among children from low-income families.
With a five-year, $3.7 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the researchers will conduct one of the CDC’s Childhood Obesity Research Demonstration projects. The grant provides funding to study the effectiveness of Family-based Behavioral Treatment (FBT), especially in children from low-income families. FBT is a behavioral weight-loss program shown to help both children and parents lose weight and fight obesity.
In addition to the Washington University research team, the study involves researchers at Children’s Mercy and the Center for Children’s Healthy Lifestyles & Nutrition, both in Kansas City, and at the Freeman Health System in Joplin, Mo. The study includes investigators at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, La., and at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
“Childhood obesity is a pressing public health concern,” said principal investigator Denise E. Wilfley, PhD, the Scott Rudolph University Professor of Psychiatry and director of the Washington University Center for Healthy Weight and Wellness. “Obesity rates have more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents over the last 30 years. At present, nearly one in five children in Missouri has obesity, and alarmingly, children from low-income families have higher obesity rates than those from higher-income families. In this project, we’re studying the best ways to deliver the treatment to give larger numbers of children access to quality care.”
When left untreated, obesity puts kids at greater risk for problems that can negatively affect their overall health and quality of life. Although there are good, evidence-based treatments available for pediatric patients with obesity, Wilfley said relatively few children, particularly those from low-income households and racial minority groups, have access to the care they need.