Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Policy Point Wednesday - Early Intervention and BMI

We all know how effective early intervention - that is, providing services at or before children reach preschool age - can be for things like success later in school. A recent Australian study suggests that a program of early intervention can provide some protection from the risks of lifestyle-related disease.

This particular study used careful controls to reduce the effect of bias in the result: participants were first screened and then sorted into a control and an intervention group. The researchers were blinded to whether participants recieved intervention or not. The control participants, while not receiving the specific program of intervention, did receive two home visits from a nurse using the standard home safety materials usually offered in the area.

The intervention group was offered seven home visits by a nurse, trained in the program, at specific developmental milestones. The nurse used the following guiding principles from the Australian program Healthy Beginnings:
  • Breast is best
  • No solids for me until 6 months
  • I eat a variety of fruit and vegetables every day
  • Only water in my cup
  • I am part of an active family.
At each visit, the nurse not only discussed the key principles with the family, but also discussed any issues and concerns with the mother. Families were offered a visual checklist with the basic information. Nurses then relayed the parents' concerns to the researchers after each visit.

The findings of this study not only showed that this type of intervention can lower BMI in children, but also that the children receiving intervention were more likely to eat vegetables, to live in a home where the TV is off during mealtimes and watch less TV overall, and to be more physically active than their counterparts in the control group. Clearly, providing strong guidelines for parents early in life, whatever the ultimate goal might be, is an effective way to make sure children grow up healthy, strong, and capable.

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