Family Healthy Weight Programs

Background

Childhood obesity is a serious health problem in the United States, putting children and adolescents at risk for poor health. Childhood obesity affects 1 in 5 US children and adolescents, approximately 14.7 million US children and adolescents 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. Differences in social determinants of health (SDOH) can contribute to persistent chronic disease disparities among racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups.

Safe and effective treatments for childhood obesity exist. Evidence-based recommendations for obesity care include referral to intensive health behavior and lifestyle treatment, i.e., a family healthy weight program. However, these programs are not available to many children with excess weight. Reported barriers to providing access to these programs include availability, cost, and insurance reimbursement. Through funding and partnerships, CDC is helping to overcome current barriers, for example, working with the US Office of Personnel Management [PDF-198KB] to improve coverage and reimbursement for evidence-based obesity health services for federal employees and their families.

What is a Family Healthy Weight Program?

A Family Healthy Weight Program is a comprehensive, family-based lifestyle change program that aims to help children with overweight and obesity make progress towards a healthier weight through positive behavior changes. A Family Healthy Weight Program is an intensive health behavior and lifestyle treatment (IHBLT), as recommended by the Clinical Practice Guideline for the Evaluation and Treatment of Children and Adolescents With Obesity, published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in January 2023.

Family Healthy Weight Programs are multi-component, using a variety of techniques to help children and families address their individual needs. Techniques often include family-based nutrition counseling, parent sessions on goal-setting and role modeling, group physical activity sessions, and more.

Family Healthy Weight Programs can be implemented in a variety of settings, including recreation centers, healthcare facilities such as federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), schools, YMCAs, or other community venues with safe and adequate facilities.

What are the key program characteristics of a Family Healthy Weight Program?

  • Intensive health behavior and lifestyle treatment.
  • For children aged 2-18 years with overweight or obesity (i.e., BMI ≥85th percentile for age and sex).
  • Offers 26 or more contact hours over 2-12 months.
  • Family-based model, involving parents or caregivers.
  • Multi-component curriculum that focuses on behavior change strategies for healthy eating and physical activity. Examples include stimulus control, goal setting, and self-monitoring.
  • Delivered by clinical or community staff who have received training specific to the program. This can include community health workers, health coaches, fitness or exercise personnel, dietitians, nurses, physicians, or behavioral health specialists.

What are the benefits of Family Healthy Weight Programs?

In addition to reducing or stabilizing a child’s weight or body mass index, some studies have also reported other benefits including:

  • Reduced parent or caregiver weight.
  • Improved:
    • Nutrition, physical activity, and associated behaviors.
    • Health-related quality of life, including self-esteem.
    • Metabolic markers (e.g., blood pressure, lipids, insulin sensitivity).
    • Parental stress, self-efficacy, and quality of life.

What are some examples of Family Healthy Weight Programs?

CDC awardees have previously implemented the following Family Healthy Weight Programs:

CDC has partnered with the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) to increase implementation of evidence-based Family Healthy Weight Programs in federally qualified health centers. To find out more about this initiative, see COMMIT!

Connect with Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity