Nationally, approximately 24% of pre-school aged children are overweight or obese, meaning that they carry excess fat for their height. Overweight children have a two- to tenfold increase in the likelihood that they will also be overweight as adults. What's more, while we know that prevention in the earliest years of life is critical for setting kids on a healthy trajectory we don't really know how best to do that.
But a group of researchers in the South Bronx is hoping to shed some light on this issue. Their program, the Well Baby Group (WBG), is an alternative to traditional, one-on-one well-child care. Facilitated by a pediatrician and nutritionist, WBG fosters positive dietary behaviors, responsive parenting and feeding practices, and peer support during the first 18 months of a child's life. The goal of this group care, unlike traditional one-on-one care which focuses primarily on healthy growth and development of the child, is to strengthen the broad foundations of early childhood development, specifically optimal nutrition, responsive parenting, supportive family relationships, and maternal mental health (which have all been linked to childhood overweight).
What did the researchers find? After 2 years, the children who participated in WBG were significantly less likely to be overweight. Approximately 15% of the traditional care group were overweight at age 2 compared to just 2% in the WBG group. Furthermore, none of the WBG were obese compared to 6.4% of the kids in the traditional care group.
Is this type of care a silver bullet? Of course not. Overweight and obese are far too complex of problems for ONE THING to be the solution. But the findings from this study are very encouraging that perhaps focusing on baby AND mom's overall wellness just might help us start heading in the right direction.