LEAP Works! Outcomes of a Family-Based Nutrition Education and Physical Activity Promotion Program
Overweight is an endemic public health concern for children, adolescents, and adults. Reducing the prevalence of childhood overweight is a national health objective and nine million U.S. children, currently classified as overweight, require effective nutrition education and physical activity promotion services. The intent of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of a family-based nutrition education and physical activity promotion program, Lifelong Eating and Activity Patterns (LEAP), as an effective approach for the prevention and treatment of child overweight. The study design was an eight-week intervention and participant files were analyzed retrospectively to ascertain information for the study variables. The main outcome measures were changes in body mass index (BMI), percent body fat, fitness level, and eating and activity behaviors for child and parent participants. Qualitative data gathered from an exit survey for both children and parents were used to assess perceived benefits, value, and effectiveness of the program. Participants included 107 boys (n=48) and girls (n=59) ages 7-14, mean age 10.6 years, and their accompanying parents. The child participants were either “at risk for overweight” (3%) or “overweight” (97%). The results showed a significant decrease in BMI for both child and parent participants and percent body fat for child participants. There was a significant increase in reported fruit and vegetable consumption, regular physical activity, and in fitness parameters for both child and parent participants. The qualitative exit survey results indicated that the LEAP program resulted in significant improvements in knowledge, attitude, and behavior. In conclusion, this family-based nutrition education and physical activity promotion program was effective in decreasing BMI and body fat, increasing fitness level, and eliciting positive changes in eating and activity attitudes and behavior in both child and parent participants.