Educating mothers cuts child obesity, new Sydney research finds

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 3rd July 2012

Teaching new mothers about healthy eating and active play can reduce the risk of their child being overweight or obese, new research from the University of Sydney has found.

The study, a collaboration between South Western Sydney and Sydney Local Health Districts and the University of Sydney, led by Dr Li Ming Wen, was published on 26 June 2012 in the online edition of the British Medical Journal.

The findings

The findings showed lower body mass index (BMI) and lower percentages of overweight and obesity for children whose mothers received targeted health messages during home visits over a two-year period, compared to a control group receiving no intervention.

The mean BMI (at 24 months) for children in the intervention group was 16.49 (where a healthy BMI is 14–18 for boys and 13–18 for girls) compared with 16.87 in the control group and 11.2 percent of the intervention group were overweight or obese after 24 months compared with 14.1 percent of the control group.

Contributing author Professor Louise Baur commented, “These results are very exciting because they open up new ways for preventing obesity in early life, especially in disadvantaged areas. The reduction in BMI achieved through this kind of intervention could translate into almost a 3% reduction in the number of children who are overweight or obese, which has great public health significance.”

How the study was conducted

The study looked at 667 first-time mothers and their infants who received eight home visits from specially trained community nurses over two years. The timing of visits was designed to coincide with early childhood developmental milestones. The nurses examined the children’s body mass index, feeding habits and television viewing time.

“This is the first study of its kind to look at such outcomes at two years of age,” Professor Baur said.

Key intervention messages the nurses taught the mothers were: breast is best, no solids for babies in the first six months, a variety of fruit and vegetables every day, and the importance of being an active family.

The complete study is available here.