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News: UAB researchers testing innovative childhood obesity intervention

September 17, 2018
UAB News, Written by Adam Pope

Sarah Salvy, Ph.D. and Gareth Dutton, Ph.D.

Researchers with the University of Alabama at Birmingham Obesity Health Disparities Research Center will examine whether simple targeted interventions, focused on developing good habits — implemented at home — can be successful in reducing the number of children who are overweight.

Sarah Salvy, Ph.D., and Gareth Dutton, Ph.D., in UAB’s Division of Preventive Medicine will test an innovative combination to prevent childhood obesity via a federally funded home visitation program. 

“We will be teaching mothers to form healthy habits, right in the comfort of their homes,” said Salvy, principal investigator of the program. “Our intervention is imbedded within an ongoing home visitation program, making it an ideal infrastructure in which to address obesity among underserved mothers and children.”

By modifying the habits and the environment in the context of a home-based intervention, researchers hope to create synergy that will help families be healthier.

“Habits, whether they are good or bad, often start in the home, and where we live affects what we do,” said Dutton, Ph.D., also a principal investigator. 

“Home educators will help families focus on simple behaviors that can be transformed into sustainable habits.”

Home educators will help families focus on simple behaviors that can be transformed into sustainable habits such as eating more fruits and vegetables, eating less fried foods, avoiding sugar sweetened beverages, increasing daily steps, and weighing each day.

Salvy and Dutton will test the effectiveness of their intervention with low-income mothers and young children participating in the Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngers program, which uses parent educators to provide services to over 16,000 families across the United States. In Alabama, Montgomery County is the largest HIPPY service area and will be the site of the nine-month intervention. 

“We see this intervention as a scalable model, which if successful, can be used in other sites across the country,” Dutton said. 

Salvy and Dutton recently published the protocol for this project in Contemporary Clinical Trials.