The Effectiveness of a Family-Centered Childhood Obesity Intervention at the YMCA: A Pilot Study

J Community Med Health Educ. 2018;8(1):591. doi: 10.4172/2161-0711.1000591. Epub 2018 Feb 23.


Objective: Community-based, family-centered obesity prevention/treatment initiatives have been shown to be effective in reducing body mass index (BMI) and improving healthy habits in children if implemented with high intensity and sufficient duration. Let's Go! 5-2-1-0 Program (5-2-1-0) was incorporated into family-centered, monthly physical activity classes and cooking classes over six months delivered by Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) staff. We hypothesized that implementation of this intervention would improve 5-2-1-0 knowledge attainment, increase healthy behavior (based on 5- 2-1-0 curriculum), and improve BMI and waist circumference measurements in children.

Methods: Children attending YMCA summer camps in Rochester, MN, during 2016 were recruited via study packets mailed to their families. Height, weight, and waist circumference measurements as well as the results of the Modified Healthy Habits Survey and the 5-2-1-0 Knowledge Acquisition Survey were recorded for each participating child at baseline and 6-month follow-up. The intervention group received monthly healthy habit reminder emails, and was invited to monthly evening cooking and physical activity classes for 7 sessions over a 6-month period.

Results: Fifteen families in the intervention group attended classes. Of those, 13 families regularly participated in (attended at least 5 out of 7) both the monthly physical activity and cooking classes. The children in the intervention group had a significant improvement in the number of Knowledge Acquisition Survey questions answered correctly (p<0.001), while there was no improvement in the control group. As compared to children in the control group, there was no significant change in BMI or waist circumference or healthy habits in the intervention group.

Conclusion: Our study findings indicate that our intervention resulted in improved knowledge about healthy habits, but did not significantly impact healthy habits or BMI. Potential reasons for this were the small sample size and the attenuated length and/or intensity of the intervention.

Keywords: Cooking; Exercise; Family; Healthy lifestyle; Obesity; Overweight; Pediatric obesity.