Healthy eating and obesity prevention for preschoolers: a randomised controlled trial

Skouteris, Helen; McCabe, Marita; Swinburn, Boyd; Hill, Briony
January 2010
BMC Public Health;2010, Vol. 10 Issue 1, p220
Academic Journal
Background: Developing effective prevention and intervention programs for the formative preschool years is seen as an essential step in combating the obesity epidemic across the lifespan. The overall goal of the current project is to measure the effectiveness of a healthy eating and childhood obesity prevention intervention, the MEND (Mind Exercise Nutrition Do It!) program that is delivered to parents of children aged 2-4 years. Methods/Design: This randomised controlled trial will be conducted with 200 parents and their 2-4 year old children who attend the MEND 2-4 program in metropolitan and regional Victoria. Parent-child dyads will attend ten 90-minute group workshops. These workshops focus on general nutrition, as well as physical activity and behaviours. They are typically held at community or maternal and child health centres and run by a MEND 2-4 trained program leader. Child eating habits, physical activity levels and parental behaviours and cognitions pertaining to nutrition and physical activity will be assessed at baseline, the end of the intervention, and at 6 and 12 months post the intervention. Informed consent will be obtained from all parents, who will then be randomly allocated to the intervention or wait-list control group. Discussion: Our study is the first RCT of a healthy eating and childhood obesity prevention intervention targeted specifically to Australian parents and their preschool children aged 2-4 years. It responds to the call by experts in the area of childhood obesity and child health that prevention of overweight in the formative preschool years should focus on parents, given that parental beliefs, attitudes, perceptions and behaviours appear to impact significantly on the development of early overweight. This is 'solution-oriented' rather than 'problem-oriented' research, with its focus being on prevention rather than intervention. If this is a positive trial, the MEND2-4 program can be implemented as a national program. Trial Registration: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12610000200088


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