Attenuated efficacy of pediatric obesity treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2022 Jan;30(1):45-49. doi: 10.1002/oby.23313. Epub 2021 Nov 23.


Objective: This study examined whether the efficacy of a standard-of-care pediatric obesity treatment was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods: Analyses leveraged data from an ongoing pediatric obesity treatment trial involving 230 lower-income, urban children aged 6 to 12 years. Mixed-effects regression models compared children who participated in a 12-month weight-management intervention before versus during the COVID-19 pandemic on change from baseline in BMI z score (ΔzBMI) at 3, 6, 9, and 12 months.

Results: The observed pattern of ΔzBMI was significantly different before versus during the pandemic (χ2 = 22.73, p < 0.0001). Children treated before the pandemic maintained an average weight loss of -0.06 ΔzBMI at 12 months, whereas children treated during the pandemic steadily gained weight over time, averaging a net gain of 0.11 ΔzBMI at 12 months (χ2 = 34.99, p < 0.0001). Treatment session completion did not differ before versus during the pandemic (60.4% vs. 55.7%, respectively; p = 0.30) or account for differences in ΔzBMI.

Conclusions: Similar reductions in intervention efficacy may be anticipated in other pediatric obesity treatment trials conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many families that have struggled with managing their child's weight during this period may need encouragement to continue engaging in structured weight management as society renormalizes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Body Mass Index
  • COVID-19*
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Pandemics / prevention & control
  • Pediatric Obesity* / epidemiology
  • Pediatric Obesity* / therapy
  • SARS-CoV-2