A new obesity management program will use family counseling, text messages and newsletters to control weight and spark healthier eating and physical activity habits in obese/overweight Latino kids, thanks to a five-year $2.9 million federal grant awarded to researchers at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio.
Researchers will develop and test the six-month program among 230 child-parent pairs in three pediatric clinics of the University Health System.
Half the child-parent pairs will get in-clinic counseling on how to make healthy changes.
The other half will get the same in-clinic counseling—plus phone counseling and culturally tailored text messages and newsletters to reinforce changes suggested through counseling.
“We believe kids in the more intensive group will significantly improve their body composition, increase their physical activity levels, consume more fruits and vegetables and fewer sugary drinks, and decrease their sedentary habits, like watching TV,” said Dr. Deborah Parra-Medina, the study’s principal investigator and a professor at the Institute for Health Promotion Research (IHPR) at the UT Health Science Center.
About 39% of Latino kids ages 2-19 are overweight or obese, compared to 32% of all U.S. kids.
Research indicates that Latino kids tend to have more limited access to physical activity options and healthy food, contributing to obesity and related health issues, like diabetes.
Parra-Medina’s new obesity management program will tackle many of these factors.
Counseling will focus on consuming more fruits and vegetables and less sugar-sweetened beverages, limiting screen time and being active at least one hour a day. Strategies to improve eating habits include eating breakfast daily, eating more meals at home, eating meals as a family most days, and allowing the child to self-regulate his/her meals.
Parra-Medina and her colleagues will develop content for culturally tailored newsletters and text messages to reinforce those concepts. Dr. David Akopian of UT San Antonio will implement the text messaging system.
The team will measure the impact of the program on body composition, insulin, glucose and cholesterol levels, and health behavior changes, like fruit and vegetable consumption.
“We think this will become an effective way to reduce and prevent obesity in Hispanic families,” Parra-Medina said.
The study is funded by the National Institutes of Health’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development.