Parent-Only Treatment For Childhood Obesity?

I have previously suggested that to prevent and treat childhood obesity, interventions need to focus on the parents and not the kids.

Now a randomised controlled study by Kerri Boutelle and colleagues from the Universities of California and Minnesota, published online in OBESITY, confirms that the parent-only approach to treating childhood obesity is at least as, if not more, effective than parent-and-child strategies.

The researchers randomised 80 parent-child pairs with an 8-12 year old overweight or obese child to 5 months of either a parent-only (PO) or parent + child (PC) treatment for childhood obesity. Parents in the PO group were coached on how to assist their children in weight monitoring at home and reflect on the behaviors that influenced weight. The material taught in the child groups of the PC arm was similar in content to that taught to the parents, but presented in an age-appropriate manner (i.e., fun games). PC treatment was delivered in 60-min separate child and parent groups, while PO treatment was delivered in 60-min parent groups.

Both at post-treatment and at 6-months follow-up PO treatment were as successful as PC treatment both in terms of child weight loss and physical activity.

The authors conclude that a PO treatment could provide similar results to PC in child weight loss and other relevant outcomes, and would likely be more cost-effective and easier to disseminate.

Despite these results, it is not quite what I meant, when I said, “treat the parents to manage childhood obesity”. I literally meant treating the parents themselves for their obesity, as a result of which, they would be better able to deal with their kids’ obesity. The approach described in this study is more like counseling active drug addicts on how to reduce drug use in their kids.

Over the next few days, I will be attending the 3rd Conference on Recent Advances in the Prevention and Treatment of Childhood & Adolescent Obesity, in Hamilton Ontario. I wonder if this approach will find any takers.

Montreal, Quebec

Boutelle KN, Cafri G, & Crow SJ (2010). Parent-Only Treatment for Childhood Obesity: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.) PMID: 20966907