Children with obesity benefit from family-based behavioral treatment

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New research has revealed that when it comes to treating obesity in children at an outpatient clinic, that treatment is more beneficial when family is involved.

The study, published in the journal Clinical Obesity, was conducted at Haukeland University Hospital in Bergen, Norway in close collaboration with researchers at the University of Washington. They found that when treating severely obese children between the ages of six and 18 years old, family-based behavioral treatment significantly improved weight-related outcomes.

Family-based behavioral social facilitation treatment (FBSFT) was compared with treatment as usual (TAU). This study design provided the opportunity to investigate the FBSFT approach on children who exhibited a body mass index (BMI) of greater or equal to 35 or 30, the most severe form of obesity categorized by the International Obesity Task Force (IOTF).

Researchers adjusted the treatment previously delivered through research clinics to a routine healthcare setting and found promising results. The behavioral treatment involved both school and leisure activities and consisted of an intensive treatment program evaluating 114 children during 17 sessions spread over six months. The family-based approach to this intervention required that both the child and at least one parent agreed to actively participate. Outcome measures included BMI-related metrics, sleep measures, physical activity, and eating behavior.

According to the study, individual treatment response showed that significantly more children receiving FBSFT achieved a clinically meaningful BMI standard deviation score reduction of greater or equal to 0.25 compared to children receiving TAU. However, the beneficial changes in weight outcomes exhibited in FBSFT compared to TAU were not explained by differences in sleep, physical activity, or eating behavior. They found that family involvement was key to treatment success as parents changing their own behaviors to help their child was crucial, and this is an important component of FBSFT.

This treatment model from the study will now be incorporated in the eBATTLE Obesity study, a Norwegian multicenter study investigating the effect of family-based behavioral treatment in combination with pharmacological treatment.