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Educating parents helps kids lose weight

The Issue

In the U.S., 32 percent of children are overweight or obese. Intervention and prevention efforts point to the importance of multifaceted approaches that include both children and parents. Recent research establishes important links between warm and responsive parenting practices and children’s healthy diets and weight. With children spending much of their day at school, many current interventions for obesity prevention focus on the school environment. In such cases, it is important to establish links to parents and to address the parenting environment.

What Has ANR Done?

The Shaping Healthy Choices Program (SHCP), funded by UC ANR, is a multicomponent, school-based program with five components: 1) nutrition education and promotion, 2) family and community partnerships, 3) integration of regional agriculture, 4) foods available on the school campus and 5) school wellness policies.

The UC SHCP team created family partnerships through "Team Up for Families" monthly parent newsletters that contained 1) school-to-home lesson connections for the classroom-based nutrition, garden and physical activity curriculum and 2) information on parenting practices relevant to healthy diet and physical activity tailored to their child’s age.

Team Up for Families had two goals: 1) teach parents the nutrition and physical activity information their children received in the classroom with ideas on how to use the information at home, and 2) promote positive parenting practices by providing information about developmental processes for children of this age, how to interact in a warm and responsive manner with their children, and how parenting behaviors affect children’s dietary and physical activity decisions.

The Payoff

Positive changes in parenting result from school-based nutrition education program

The Team Up for Families newsletters improved parenting behaviors linked to poor dietary quality and overweight children (restriction of, and pressure to eat certain foods), and increased desirable behaviors linked to better child outcomes (shared family meals, consistency). For children who lack the internal control associated with healthy weight, parenting was significantly associated with a positive decrease in body mass index. The use of Team Up for Families newsletters within the SHCP intervention provides a means to change parenting behaviors and contribute to bolstering changes in children’s health.

Clientele Testimonial

“The quizzes at the beginning of the newsletters made me think: What kind of mom am I? I try to be healthy with my family, but this made me think even more.”

“A lot of adults don’t know these things so I like the newsletters. They were informational and I got something new from each issue.”


Supporting Unit: Youth, Families & Communities - 4-H

-- Lenna Ontai, Cooperative Extension specialist, UC Davis Dept. of Human Ecology and UC Cooperative Extension (530) 752-6410
-- Carolyn Sutter, Human Development graduate student, UC Davis
-- The Shaping Healthy Choices Project team