Pennington Receives Nearly $14 Million to Study Childhood Obesity in Rural and Minority Areas

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BATON ROUGE - The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute has awarded Pennington Biomedical Research Center and Vanderbilt University Medical Center $13.8 million for five years of research.

The study aims to find the ideal “dose” of behavior interventions to treat childhood obesity in rural and minority communities in Louisiana and Tennessee.

In the study, researchers will compare how different “dosing” combinations of face-to-face intervention time may be optimized to help reduce a child’s weight over 12 months and impact a child’s diet, physical activity, sleep, media use and quality of life.

Researchers plan to enroll 900 parent-child pairs, with children ages 5 to 17 who have obesity and are from rural and minority communities in Tennessee and Louisiana, where childhood obesity rates are among the highest in the country.

The Dose Childhood Obesity Trial will study the optimal duration of behavioral interventions, including number of sessions and length of sessions, which are best in treating childhood obesity among these groups.

Pennington Biomedical’s Amanda Staiano and Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Bill Heerman are co-principal investigators on the randomized, multisite trial.

Children are diagnosed with obesity if their body mass index is at or above the 95th percentile for their age and gender category. The long-term risks associated with childhood obesity include Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.

Today about 1-in-5 children in the U.S. struggle with obesity. Despite ongoing efforts, childhood obesity rates continue to increase over the last decade.

The prevalence of childhood obesity is higher among children who are underrepresented minorities and those who live in rural areas due to health disparities and limited access to interventions.

Across the U.S., about 22 percent of Hispanic or Latin American and 20 percent of African American children have obesity compared to about 14 percent of white children. Additionally, obesity affects about 22 percent of children who live in rural areas.

“With Louisiana ranking near the top on lists for both children and adults living with obesity, this is an important study for families in our state to be involved in,” Staiano said. “We are gaining momentum in helping with the obesity crisis with programs like the upcoming Greaux Healthy initiative and this new grant that will help expand access to evidence-based obesity treatments to families throughout Louisiana.”

“We know that one-size fits all approaches to treating childhood obesity don’t work. This trial is an opportunity to understand what works best and for whom,” said Heerman, associate professor of Pediatrics and a general pediatrician at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

The research team and scientific advisory board includes researchers from Vanderbilt and Pennington Biomedical, representatives from the American Academy of Pediatrics, multiple international experts in childhood obesity interventions, and patient representatives.

The grant is awarded by PCORI, which is an independent, nonprofit organization authorized by Congress with a mission to fund patient-centered comparative clinical effectiveness research that provides patients, their caregivers and clinicians with the evidence-based information they need to make better informed health and health care decisions.

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