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Internet helps ensure mother knows best when it comes to preventing childhood obesity

ith their children, tips for involving their children in meal preparation and other advice. Knowlden says some participants remarked that lessons in the program involved information they felt they should have known but didn't.

Knowlden also stressed how the convenience and community aspects of the program helped boost program completion rates. Giving participants the ability to access the program from their own homes at convenient times was an advantage over attending a meeting at a set time and that required travel. And the community-building and interactive components of EMPOWER, such as online discussion boards, helped reduce feelings of isolation some participants might have had.

And ultimately, the program achieved positive results.

"We found that the experimental EMPOWER group and the standard care control group increased physical activity and reduced sugary beverage consumption and screen time. However, only the EMPOWER program improved children's fruit and vegetable intake," Knowlden says of the study done during his time at UC. "Moms were really interested and gave a lot of good feedback. We were able to change the home environment because of this Web-based program."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that childhood obesity has more than doubled in children in the past 30 years. The CDC also reports that children who are obese are likely to be obese as adults and are therefore more at risk for adult health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer and osteoarthritis.

"Many of the chronic diseases we have today are basically lifestyle related," Knowlden says. "We're showing that targeting behaviors that we know protect against childhood obesity will stick with children their whole lives when developed at young ages. Addressing those behaviors in the home environment is one of the key focal points and using the Web is an effective method for achieving that."

Contact: Tom Robinette
University of Cincinnati

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