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Keywords:

  • Adolescents;
  • caregiver;
  • nutrition;
  • physical activity

Summary

Obesity interventions that involve family members may be effective with racial/ethnic minority youth. This review assessed the nature and effectiveness of family involvement in obesity interventions among African–American girls aged 5–18 years, a population group with high rates of obesity. Twenty-six databases were searched between January 2011 and March 2012, yielding 27 obesity pilot or full-length prevention or treatment studies with some degree of family involvement and data specific to African–American girls. Interventions varied in type and level of family involvement, cultural adaptation, delivery format and behaviour change intervention strategies; most targeted parent–child dyads. Some similarities in approach based on family involvement were identified. The use of theoretical perspectives specific to African–American family dynamics was absent. Across all studies, effects on weight-related behaviours were generally promising but often non-significant. Similar conclusions were drawn for weight-related outcomes among the full-length randomized controlled trials. Many strategies appeared promising on face value, but available data did not permit inferences about whether or how best to involve family members in obesity prevention and treatment interventions with African–American girls. Study designs that directly compare different types and levels of family involvement and incorporate relevant theoretical elements may be an important next step.