Date of Award

5-11-2018

Degree Type

Capstone Project

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)

Department

Public Health

First Advisor

Daniel J. Whitaker, PhD

Second Advisor

Rodney Lyn, PhD

Abstract

Childhood obesity is a major health concern. A high body mass index (BMI) is associated with the onset of several chronic diseases and can impact physical, mental, and emotional health. Several lifestyle factors have played a role in the rising prevalence of obesity over recent decades, including poor diet and lack of physical activity. Previous obesity intervention efforts have focused on reversing obesity rather than addressing risk factors prior to weight gain. The evidence-base of best practices for childhood obesity prevention is weak, and few interventions have indicated long-term success on weight reduction and maintenance. Parents play a major role in influencing behaviors related to eating and exercise, thus home visiting programs may present an opportunity for addressing risk factors for obesity. Many of these programs aim to prevent adverse experiences in early childhood by working with parents and caregivers and have been successful in improving child outcomes. This setting has recently been explored in the context of childhood obesity prevention and research has indicated that such efforts may be effective. This project examines the extent to which childhood obesity is addressed among 8 evidence-based home visiting programs. These programs’ efforts are compared to expert recommendations for childhood obesity prevention and opportunities for future consideration are discussed. Finally, recommendations from the literature are made for integrating best practices for maintaining a healthy weight into home visiting programs.

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