NIH Awards $2M to Study Long-Term Obesity Intervention in Kids

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The principal investigator at Seattle Children's said prior work has shown that intensive interventions can be effective in fighting obesity, but they are rarely covered by insurance.

Seattle Children’s Research Institute will receive $2 million to study a long-term intervention to give children and parents tools to help them lose weight and keep it off.

Funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the study known as SHIFT (Success in Health: Impacting Families Together) will occur over 5 months as children ages 7-11 and parents meet once a week for education sessions, which will take place at clinics.


Researchers have studied obesity years but seen rates double in children and quadruple in teens in 30 years, according to rates reported by CDC. Along with rising obesity, public health officials have seen rising rates of blood pressure, cholesterol, and higher rates of type 2 diabetes among younger patients.

The project based in Seattle will draw from earlier work that shows intensive interventions work, according to principal investigator Brian Saelens, PhD, a health psychologist. “This study offers a great opportunity for one-on-one attention and group support for families who are starting the New Year thinking about weight loss and healthy habits,” he said in a statement from Seattle Children’s.

Earlier work by Saelens has shown that interventions work, but they are rarely covered by insurance and families cannot afford them. Saelens said prior work has shown the peer-to-peer interactions can be as effective as professional interactions—and sometimes more so—and cost much less.

The new round of funding from NIH will allow families to meeting individually with an intervention professional to discuss goals; parents and children will then attend weekly group sessions that address topics like healthy eating, supporting behavioral change, improving the home environment to promote physical activity, and building self-confidence. SHIFT seeks 300 families for the study.

SHIFT will measure how well children and families are doing 1 year after treatment. Funds for the intervention come from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.