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Two-year follow-up of the ‘Families for Health’ programme for the treatment of childhood obesity


Wendy Robertson, Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK. E-mail:


Background  The high prevalence of obesity in children in the UK warrants continuing public health attention. ‘Families for Health’ is a family-based group programme for the treatment of childhood obesity. Significant improvements in body mass index (BMI) z-score (−0.21, 95% CI: −0.35 to −0.07, P= 0.007) and other health outcomes were seen in children at a 9-month follow-up.

Aim  To undertake a 2-year follow-up of families who attended ‘Families for Health’ in Coventry, to assess long-term outcomes and costs.

Methods Families for Health’ is a 12-week programme with parallel groups for parents and children, addressing parenting skills, healthy lifestyles and emotional well-being. The intervention was delivered at a leisure centre in Coventry, England, with 27 overweight or obese children aged 7–13 years (18 girls, 9 boys) and their parents, from 21 families. A ‘before-and-after’ evaluation was completed with 19 (70%) children followed up at 2 years. The primary outcome was change in BMI z-score from baseline; secondary outcomes were children's quality of life, parent–child relationships, eating/activity habits and parents' mental health. Costs to deliver the intervention and to families were recorded.

Results  Mean change in BMI z-score from baseline was −0.23 (95% CI: −0.42 to −0.03, P= 0.027) at the 2-year follow-up and eight (42%) children had a clinically significant reduction in BMI z-score. Significant improvements were seen in children's quality of life and eating habits in the home, while there were sustained reductions in unhealthy foods and sedentary behaviour. Fruit and vegetable consumption and parent's mental health were not significantly different at 2 years. Costs of the programme were £517 per family (£402 per child), equivalent to £2543 per unit reduction in BMI z-score.

Conclusions  Improvements in BMI z-score and certain other outcomes associated with the ‘Families for Health’ programme were sustained at the 2-year follow-up. ‘Families for Health’ is a promising new childhood obesity intervention, and a randomized controlled trial is now indicated.