Adam Knowlden, a former doctoral student at University of Cincinnati and current assistant professor in the University of Alabama's Health Science Department, hopes his research can better prepare moms to keep their kids from joining the rising ranks of America's obese children.
"Addressing this problem of childhood obesity needs to start in the home environment and preferably with children at younger ages," Knowlden said.
"This research shows the Web is an effective way to help some parents. It's something that should be capitalized on from a public health perspective," he added.
Knowlden will present his team's research "Impact Evaluation of the Enabling Mothers to Prevent Pediatric Obesity Through Web-Based Education and Reciprocal Determinism (EMPOWER) Intervention" at the American Public Health Association's (APHA) 141st Annual Meeting and Exposition.
Knowlden's novel EMPOWER intervention used a Web-based delivery method to help mothers better understand four behaviors associated with childhood obesity: consumption of fruits and vegetables; physical activity; consumption of sugary beverages; and screen time.
Mothers in the pilot study used special software to access the content of the EMPOWER program.
Through the Internet, mothers were given healthy recipes, strategies for grocery shopping, techniques for better communicating with their children, tips for involving their children in meal preparation and other advice.
Knowlden said some participants remarked that lessons in the program involved information they felt they should have known but didn't.
Knowlden also stressed how the convenience and community aspects of the program helped boost program completion rates.
Giving participants the ability to access the program from their own homes at convenient times was an advantage over attending a meeting at a set time and that required travel.
And the community-building and interactive components of EMPOWER, such as online discussion boards, helped reduce feelings of isolation some participants might have had.