Community Based Weight Loss for Kids

Healthy lifestyle clinics at a YMCA helped obese kids lower body weight

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Taking a child to an obesity clinic is expensive. Community-based education with support groups that also involve the parents is a cost-effective way to support weight loss.

A recent study put 155 obese kids in a 12-session group weight-loss clinic at the YMCA. Results found a 10 percent reduction in obesity after 6-months.

"Check community listings for health education clinics."

Gary Foster, PhD, director of the Center for Obesity Research and Education (CORE) at Temple University in Philadelphia, led the investigation.

Dr. Foster said, “We’ve known for decades that there are effective treatments for childhood obesity, but they are labor-intensive, expensive and not very accessible.”

“We were interested in seeing if a clinic-based program could be diluted and implemented in the community.”

For the study, 155 children and their parents were recruited for a 6-month trial of clinic-based community program to treat being overweight or obese.

A total of 92 percent of participants, between 8.5 and 14.1 years of age, were clinically obese with 47 percent in the 99th percentile for their body mass index (BMI).

BMI calculates appropriate and safe body weight for a person’s height.

Kids attended 12 group sessions with their parents at a local YMCA in Providence, Rhode Island.

Sessions were followed up by 12 corresponding home lessons led by a parent based upon a healthy eating handout provided by the program administrators.

Results of the study showed average weight loss of 3.4 percent for the kids overall. Kids under the age of 13 had a 4.3 percent reduction, while for kids 13 and older had a 1 percent reduction in body weight.

A total of 10 percent of the group was no longer in the obese category after 6-months and 8 percent dropped out of the 99th percentile for obesity.

The more kids attended group sessions, the better their weight loss outcomes. Parents and kids reported higher health-related quality of life after the weight loss.

Dr. Foster said, “Each week, families were given specific goals around eating, activity and tracking progress.”

“If a program like this were implemented across the country, there would be 10 percent fewer obese children. That’s a huge impact with significant health and economic implications.”

None of the program facilitators were professionally trained in treating childhood obesity prior to this trial.

While Dr. Foster admits this type of program is not quite as effective as treatment in a clinic with specialists, this program still worked well and with significantly less cost.

This article was published in September in Pediatrics. Funding for this study was supported by UnitedHealth Group. No conflicts of interest were reported.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 25, 2012
Last Updated:
September 28, 2012