Background: This study evaluates the effects of an intervention performed by youth health care professionals on child health behaviors. The intervention consisted of offering healthy lifestyle counseling to parents of overweight (not obese) 5-year-old children. Effects of the intervention on the child having breakfast, drinking sweet beverages, watching television and playing outside were evaluated.
Methods: Data were collected with the 'Be active, eat right' study, a cluster randomized controlled trial among nine youth health care centers in the Netherlands. Parents of overweight children received lifestyle counseling according to the intervention protocol in the intervention condition (n = 349) and usual care in the control condition (n = 288). Parents completed questionnaires regarding demographic characteristics, health behaviors and the home environment at baseline and at 2-year follow-up. Cluster adjusted regression models were applied; interaction terms were explored.
Results: The population for analysis consisted of 38.1% boys; mean age 5.8 [sd 0.4] years; mean BMI SDS 1.9 [sd 0.4]. There were no significant differences in the number of minutes of outside play or television viewing a day between children in the intervention and the control condition. Also, the odds ratio for having breakfast daily or drinking two or less glasses of sweet beverages a day showed no significant differences between the two conditions. Additional analyses showed that the odds ratio for drinking less than two glasses of sweet beverages at follow-up compared with baseline was significantly higher for children in both the intervention (p < 0.001) and the control condition (p = 0.029).
Conclusions: Comparison of the children in the two conditions showed that the intervention does not contribute to a change in health behaviors. Further studies are needed to investigate opportunities to adjust the intervention protocol, such as integration of elements in the regular well-child visit. The intervention protocol for youth health care may become part of a broader approach to tackle childhood overweight and obesity.
Trial registration: Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN04965410.