Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2015

Degree Name

MS (Master of Science)

Degree In

Physiology and Biophysics

First Advisor

Carr, Lucas

First Committee Member

Janz, Kathleen F

Second Committee Member

Tucker, Sharon J


Prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity has tripled in the United States in the last 30 years, resulting in 31.8% of youth (ages 2-19 years of age) classified as overweight or obese.1,2 To date many high-intensity and medium-intensity programs have been developed and tested in efforts to ameliorate the high prevalence of childhood obesity, however there is a gap in the testing and implementation of low-intensity family-based treatments.3–7The Traffic Light Program is the only childhood obesity program that has published long-term outcomes and was developed by Epstein et. al., however it only includes children from ages 6-12. We developed an 8-week family based childhood obesity program (Healthy Hawkeye Program) to test the feasibility and efficacy of an adapted version (light intensity) of the Traffic Light Program in families of overweight and obese children. To our knowledge, this is the first study to test the efficacy of a low-intensity (21 hours) comprehensive family-based intervention specifically tailored for overweight and obese children from 6 to 17 years of age. Measures include body composition (weight, fat mass, lean body mass, body fat %, BMI, waist circumference), sedentary, light and moderate levels of physical activity (wrist-worn Generative Accelerometer), dietary quality (caloric intake, fruit/vegetable daily servings), measures of nutritional and physical activity self-efficacy, Lifestyle Behavior Checklist (LBC), Family Nutrition and Physical activity (FNPA) survey, Satisfaction with Life Scale, and the Healthy Hawkeye Program Evaluation Survey. We hypothesize that participants will improve in selected (1) health measures (weight, caloric intake, daily fruit intake, daily vegetable intake, sedentary, light, and moderate physical activity levels), (2) improve in selected theoretical constructs (self-efficacy, behaviors, environments), and (3) will find the Healthy Hawkeye Program acceptable and helpful. A total of five families were recruited and only 3 families (3 mothers, 2 male children, and 1 female child) completed the program (attended 6 of 8 weekly meetings). The very low sample size of only 3 families limited the statistical analysis. The results showed parents reduced their absolute weight by 5.6 lbs and children slightly increased by 0.1 lbs. Both parents and children decreased their daily sedentary time as well as increased their daily moderate activity. Various measures of self-efficacy, behaviors, nutrition improved among parents and children. Parents and children found the program to be acceptable and helpful.

Public Abstract

Prevalence of childhood obesity and overweight has been increasing for the past three decades, leading to increased weight-related illnesses among children and young adulthood. Few programs have shown positive long-term outcomes as a result of childhood obesity programs. Programs that take on a comprehensive approach have been shown to have the better results in both short and long term. A comprehensive approach in treating childhood obesity would include a dietary, physical activity, and a behavioral component. At the same time those programs that have been found effective tend to be considered of high intensity, where the time and effort demanded from the individual is high. There is a gap in current scientific literature in testing childhood obesity programs of low-intensity that are effective and comprehensive. We developed family-based childhood obesity program in collaboration with the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital. The program is called the Healthy Hawkeye Program and offered to families of obese children currently seen for weight related illnesses at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital. We recruited a total of 5 families of which 3 successfully completed the program. We measured basic demographics, anthropometrics, vital signs, physical activity levels, diet quality, self-efficacy, satisfaction with life, certain behaviors within families and their environments, and the acceptability of the program. Only the parent’s group decreased in weight after completion of the program. The program was found to be accepted and helpful to both children and parents.


publicabstract, Childhood, Family-Based, Group-Based, Obesity


x, 69 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 47-59).


Copyright 2015 Roberto Martin Benzo

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