Weight-loss programs for children and parents do best when the family members participate together, but programs that focus on family treatment are usually offered in only specialty clinics and unavailable to the general public.
One solution to that problem may come from a five-year, $8.8 million National Institutes of Health grant to start making family-based weight-loss programs available to 500 families in four cities, including Buffalo.
The programs will begin in spring 2017 in primary care offices in Buffalo; Rochester; Columbus, Ohio; and St. Louis. The grant will allow the programs to treat more than 1,000 overweight or obese children and their parents, as well as more than 200 siblings who are overweight or obese, according to researchers at the University at Buffalo’s Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
The primary care setting is an optimal location for such programs because of the established relationship between patients and their doctors, according to Leonard H. Epstein, a SUNY distinguished professor at UB who pioneered the family-based approach to weight loss.
“We want to know how to overcome some of the barriers – such as staffing, space, funding and attitudes – that primary care practices may face when using empirically tested research in treatment programs,” he said in a statement. “We will have to find ways to help them provide services that they traditionally haven’t had the time to provide at the pace the families need for ultimate success and on a flexible schedule that can best accommodate patients.”
During one 10-year study of overweight children who had participated in Epstein’s research, 50 percent were able to maintain a healthy weight.
The local participating primary practices include Delaware Pediatrics in Buffalo, Integrity Health Group in Amherst, and the Williamsville Pediatric Center.
The study will compare two weight-control approaches. One group will get an enhanced version of the standard treatment, where parent and child receive information on healthy eating and are seen by the physician four times over two years.
Families receiving the intervention will be seen in the doctor’s office by their own physician, as well as by health counselors trained to deliver family-based weight-control programs tailored to the needs of each family, according to the news release.
“With this grant, we are placing health coaches on the front lines,” Epstein said.
For information on participating, call 829-6816.