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Talking With Families may Help Prevent Childhood Obesity

emotional and behavioral issues like obesity and help the physician understand the patient's perspective as well as barriers to behavior changes.

"We also give physicians tools to help them assess their patient's interest and confidence in making a behavior change. Ultimately, we are placing the responsibility for health behavior change in the family's lap and we are hopeful that this will result in improved outcomes."

Overall, 94 percent of the parents who received motivational interviewing said it helped them think about changing their family's eating habits. And at a follow-up six months later, the average body mass of participants who received motivational interviewing had decreased by 2.6 points on the body mass index scale. There was a decrease of 0.6 points in the control group and 1.9 points in the minimal intervention group. Based on the small size of the study, these results were not statistically significant, which means they could have occurred by chance.

"We encourage small changes which can lead to success," Schwartz said. "We help families find new alternatives to dining out, drinking sugary drinks, TV viewing and ways to increase the family's physical activity. We ask parents 'What are your goals' and help them find ways to change their behavior in order to achieve those goals."

Schwartz and his colleagues are still exploring ways to better communicate and motivate parents and families to live healthier lives.

"This was a pilot study and a preliminary step to begin turning this obesity epidemic around," he said. "We are looking to develop more motivational strategies. The physicians and health care providers who participated in this study say it helped them talk with their patients more effectively. That's a win-win for everyone."


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