Objective: To pilot test and assess the feasibility of a culturally grounded approach to adolescent overweight and diabetes prevention.
Study design: Reach-Out, a family-based nutrition and exercise program for overweight African American youth aged 9 to 12 years and their families, is led by lay health leaders and conducted in a community setting on Chicago's south side (Illinois). Age-appropriate interactive sessions focus on skills building, problem solving, and setting goals during 14 weekly sessions, with monthly meetings thereafter. Pre-post comparisons were made for 29 families (62 subjects) using physical (body mass index [BMI], blood pressure, waist circumference), biochemical (glucose, insulin, lipid levels) and behavioral data. Statistical analyses included mixed-effects linear models and logistic regression.
Results: Children's mean BMI z score fell from 2.46 at baseline to 2.38 at 14 weeks and 2.39 at 1 year (p=.02), while parents' BMI remained stable. Children reported increased walking (p=0.07) and exhibited a corresponding rise in mean serum high-density lipoprotein cholesterol from 49.4 to 54.2 (p<.001). Qualitative assessment showed that participants enjoyed the program but felt the program could be improved by making the sessions even more interactive.
Conclusion: A community-based program for overweight minority youth and families can successfully address overweight, with the potential to decrease diabetes risk in youth.