by Photo via Unspalsh

A University of San Diego clinical trial found that Guided Self-Help programs are more accessible to families to treat pediatric obesity as it remains a serious health problem in the United States. 

Researchers at UC San Diego’s School of medicine conducted a randomized clinical trial to compare Family-Based Treatment (FBT) with a new Guided Self Help (GSH) program to address the issue of accessibility. The study found that families were more likely to maintain attendance in GSH programs although both were similarly effective in supporting pediatric weight loss. 

Participants of the clinical trial were recruited from two clinics in Escondido and Chula Vista that serve Latino Families. Researchers randomly assigned 164 children and their parents to one of the two programs. 

The study’s corresponding author, Kyung E. Rhee, MD, professor of pediatrics at UC San Diego School of Medicine, said the goal was to “ work toward a collaborative care model in which clinics employ their behavioral counselors and support the delivery of additional services at schools and community centers”.  

“We cannot make a difference if the families can’t show up for treatment,” said Rhee, “so we owe it to them to make these programs as accessible and effective as possible.”

According to the CDC, pediatric obesity affected about 14.7 million children and adolescents from 2017 through 2020. Researchers at UC San Diego found that the prevalence of pediatric obesity in the identified neighborhoods is 38 percent.

Researchers noted that the FBT program consists of 20 one-hour group sessions over six months held at academic research centers.  

“Attrition rates in these programs are high, with many parents noting scheduling issues, transportation difficulties, and competing work and family responsibilities as contributing factors,” researchers wrote in a press release. 

In contrast, the GHS model would provide 14 visits that are 20 minutes in length and held at the child’s primary care clinic. Families received self-directed material to practice in between sessions that covers several topics, such as how to self-monitor food intake, set healthy goals, and modify the home environment to promote behavioral change. 

The material also covers mental and emotional health. Families would meet with a health coach to discuss strategies. 

“Families assigned to GSH showed a nearly 70 percent lower risk of attrition, and reported greater satisfaction and convenience,” researchers reported. 

Lourdes Herrera, David Strong, Eastern Kang-Sim, Yuyan Shi, and Kerri N. Boutelle, all at UC San Diego co-authored the study, which was published on June 17 in Pediatrics

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