CDC-Recognized Family Healthy Weight Programs
Obesity puts children and adolescents at risk for poor health. Childhood obesity affects 1 in 5 US children and adolescents, approximately 14.7 million in total.
Childhood obesity is more common among certain populations, including Black and Hispanic children and those from families with low income or less education.
A family healthy weight program is a comprehensive, family-based lifestyle change program to help children with overweight or obesity make progress toward a healthier weight through positive behavior changes. A family healthy weight program is also known as an intensive health behavior and lifestyle treatment.
Several national organizations, including the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the American Psychological Association, recommend family healthy weight programs to help treat childhood obesity. For example, AAP’s Clinical Practice Guideline for the Evaluation and Treatment of Children and Adolescents With Obesity recommends that clinicians refer children 2 to 18 years old with overweight or obesity to family-based multicomponent behavioral interventions with a minimum of 26 contact hours.
In addition to reducing or stabilizing a child’s weight or body mass index, some studies have reported:
- Reduced parent or caregiver weight.
- Nutrition, physical activity, and associated behaviors.
- Health-related quality of life, including self-esteem.
- Metabolic markers, such as blood pressure, lipids, and insulin sensitivity.
- Parental stress, self-efficacy, and quality of life.
All CDC-recognized family healthy weight programs met the screening criteria below, including being evidence-based and packaged for widespread dissemination, and consented to be included. This list is not intended to be exhaustive of all evidence-based programs, rather those that are ready and intended for rapid dissemination in health care, community, or public health settings.
This list is a resource for health care payers and systems, clinical or community practitioners, and others looking for information about ready-to-use, evidence-based child obesity programs. It will be updated periodically. For more information, please contact PHHT@cdc.gov.
Mind, Exercise, Nutrition…Do It! (MEND)
For children 2 to 13 who have overweight or obesity and their families.
MEND combines physical activity, healthy eating, and behavior change to encourage safe, effective weight management and lasting lifestyle changes. MEND is appropriate for many types of settings, including schools, recreation centers, and community-based organizations. MEND has two programs:
- MEND 6-13/Healthy Together is 60- to 120-minute sessions twice weekly for 10 weeks.
- MEND 2-5 is 90-minute sessions weekly for 10 weeks.
Healthy Weight and Your Child
For children 7 to 13 who have obesity and their families.
The curriculum is adapted from MEND and implemented in participating YMCA locations. The program engages children and adults in nutrition education and physical activity to elicit positive change and to help families learn skills for healthier lifestyles long-term. The program consists of 25 two-hour sessions delivered over 4 months.
Smart Moves for Kids/Bright Bodies
For children 7 to 18 who have overweight or obesity and their families.
The Smart Moves Program curriculum combines nutrition education, behavior modification, physical activity, and parental/caregiver support. The program’s goals are to nurture children’s self-esteem and healthful behaviors, while also improving body mass index, body composition, and insulin resistance. The 12-week program includes two 45-minute exercise sessions and one 40-minute nutrition or behavior modification session each week using the Smart Moves Workbook. This program was evidence-tested as Bright Bodies at Yale University.
Healthy Weight Clinic
For children 2 to 18 who have overweight or obesity and their families.
Conducted in the primary care setting, Healthy Weight Clinic focuses on achievable positive behavior change, goal setting, managing obesity-related conditions, and linking families to community resources. Participants receive at least 30 contact hours over 12 months, including individual clinic visits (monthly), group sessions (monthly for the first 6 months), and telephone check-ins (twice per month) with optional health messaging (twice per week).
Family-based Behavioral Treatment (FBT)
For children and young adults 2 to 20 who have overweight or obesity and their families.
FBT emphasizes healthy eating, physical activity, and positive parenting to empower families to practice new behaviors in a variety of settings so that they can sustain healthy changes long-term. FBT can occur in person or virtually, in a group setting, and through individual sessions with the child and parent or caregiver. FBT is delivered over at least 26 hours.
Building Healthy Families
For children 6 to 12 who have obesity and their families.
Building Healthy Families is optimized for people living in rural areas or urban areas with less than 50,000 residents. Building Health Families works with families, especially children, to identify healthier food choices, modify unhealthy behaviors, and increase physical activity. The program consists of 2-hour weekly sessions (12 total) over the course of 3 months, with 6 refresher sessions out to 1 year (32 hours total).
All programs on the list of CDC-recognized family healthy weight programs met the following screening criteria:
- Based on a peer-reviewed study that was:
- Included in the evidence review for AAP’s 2023 Clinical Practice Guideline for the Evaluation and Treatment of Children and Adolescents With Obesity, or
- Included in the evidence report for the 2017 USPSTF Recommendation Statement on Screening for Obesity in Children and Adolescents, or
- Identified from reviews of HHS funding opportunities specific to childhood obesity from 2006-2022 and tested through 1 or more randomized control trials (RCT) or comparative effectiveness trials.
- Primary study outcome(s) included at least one measure of weight or BMI, such as BMI, BMI z-score, or BMI percentile.
- Demonstrated improvements in at least one outcome of BMI or weight status in youth 2 to 18 years old.
- Intended for youth 2 to 18 years old with:
- Overweight (body mass index [BMI] at or above the 85th percentile for sex and age) or
- Obesity (BMI at or above the 95th percentile for sex and age).
- Behavioral intervention.
- Family-centered or family-based model.
- Meets AAP’s Clinical Practice Guideline for the Evaluation and Treatment of Children and Adolescents With Obesity recommendation for dose and intensity to provide 26 or more contact hours over 3 to 12 months.
- Includes both nutrition and physical activity counseling.
- Packaged for use in health care, community, or public health settings.
- Has a standard curriculum.
- Curriculum is part of a broader package of implementation materials.
- Has an online presence, such as a website or social media.
- Publicly available contact information for questions, additional information, or technical assistance.
- Program materials available in English or Spanish.
For children and adolescents with very high BMI (above the 97th percentile), use the 2022 CDC Extended BMI-for-Age Growth Charts.