Randomized Controlled Trial of the MEND Program: A Family-based Community Intervention for Childhood Obesity




The aim of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of the Mind, Exercise, Nutrition, Do it (MEND) Program, a multicomponent community-based childhood obesity intervention (www.mendcentral.org). One hundred and sixteen obese children (BMI ≥ 98th percentile, UK 1990 reference data) were randomly assigned to intervention or waiting list control (6-month delayed intervention). Parents and children attended eighteen 2-h group educational and physical activity sessions held twice weekly in sports centers and schools, followed by a 12-week free family swimming pass. Waist circumference, BMI, body composition, physical activity level, sedentary activities, cardiovascular fitness, and self-esteem were assessed at baseline and at 6 months. Children were followed up 12 months from baseline (0 and 6 months postintervention for the control and intervention group, respectively). Participants in the intervention group had a reduced waist circumference z-score (−0.37; P < 0.0001) and BMI z-score (−0.24; P < 0.0001) at 6 months when compared to the controls. Significant between-group differences were also observed in cardiovascular fitness, physical activity, sedentary behaviors, and self-esteem. Mean attendance for the MEND Program was 86%. At 12 months, children in the intervention group had reduced their waist and BMI z-scores by 0.47 (P < 0.0001) and 0.23 (P < 0.0001), respectively, and benefits in cardiovascular fitness, physical activity levels, and self-esteem were sustained. High-attendance rates suggest that families found this intensive community-based intervention acceptable. Further larger controlled trials are currently underway to confirm the promising findings of this initial trial.