Evaluating the Indirect Effects of a Community-Based Child Obesity Prevention Program on Adult Health Behaviors

Date of Publication


Project Team

Jennifer Laurent, PhD, APRN; Emmy Wollenburg, MPH


Purpose: Community-based intervention (CBI) programs aim to change individuals’ behaviors to reduce the risk of chronic disease, often by addressing factors that contribute to obesity. To provide information for improving interventions, program evaluation is needed. In Franklin and Grand Isle Counties, childhood extreme obesity decreased where a child-targeted, obesity prevention focused CBI was implemented. It has been shown that these programs can have an indirect effect on parent health/body mass index (BMI), but it is unclear if indirect effects of such programs have an impact on adult BMI and related health behaviors. The purpose of this project was to determine any indirect effects of the CBI on adults in terms of BMI, physical activity, and general health.

Methods: 2016-2018 data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System was used. Health behaviors and outcomes were analyzed from two counties. BMI, physical activity and general health of adults with and without children was examined.

Results: There was no change in BMI or physical activity level in adults regardless of child status. Adults without children were 2.8 times more likely to report “excellent” health, 2.7 times more likely to report “very good” health, and 2.8 times more likely to report “good” health.

Conclusion: Large data sets may not be appropriate to assess indirect effects or conversely, child CBI may not improve adult health. Recommendations for future programs include better assessment of parent health behaviors from children engaged in CBI, and consideration that parent health and wellbeing may be an important additional programmatic intervention.

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