Hassenfeld Child Health Innovation Institute

Healthy Weight

Improving diet and physical activity to prevent obesity and excess weight gain in high risk populations.

This initiative began in 2016 and is led by Dr. Elissa Jelalian and Dr. Rena Wing. Childhood overweight and obesity is a major concern, with epidemic numbers of children struggling to achieve a healthy weight and lifestyle.  Approximately 30% of middle school children in Rhode Island (RI) watch 3 or more hours of TV on a daily basis and an additional 39% spend 3 or more hours using the computer or watching videos. This is coupled with the fact that 38% of children in RI participate in physical activity less than 3 days of the week.  Particularly concerning is the fact that children who are at greatest risk for inactivity and unhealthy eating habits are from minority and underprivileged backgrounds. The “blueprint” for a healthy lifestyle, including optimal diet and physical activity, is established in utero and further developed through infancy and childhood. A key to maintaining and improving the health of children in RI is identifying and intervening with mothers, maternal-child dyads, and families over the course of development. The overarching goals of this initiative are to improve dietary intake and physical activity to prevent the onset of obesity and excess weight gain in high risk populations and to develop interventions for children already struggling with obesity.

Key Projects

1. Prevention of Excess Weight Gain in School Age Children

Prevention of excess summer weight gain in children living in low-income communities through summer camps.

2. Pregnancy and Early Childhood Projects

Three studies examining the reoccurrence of gestational diabetes, ways to improve postpartum testing in women who experienced gestational diabetes and mealtime interactions of toddlers as predictors of weight gain.

3. Expanding Scope of Treatment of Youth with Obesity and/or Eating Disorders

 Two individual projects focusing on increasing the scope of treatment services for obesity and eating disorders

4. Measuring Overweight and Obesity at the State and Local Level

A pilot study to create a database that tracks state and local obesity trends using data from multiple sources, including weight status information on 41,934 children.

News about the Healthy Weight Initiative

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The Healthy Weight Initiative is preparing to launch a study that will examine how early markers of self-regulation, which have been found to be related to weight gain in older children, relate to infant growth.
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