Obesity in the United States is at historically high levels and is an important health problem (Flegal et al., 2010). Interventions targeting children are a high priority because children bear the greatest lifetime health risk from overweight and obesity. (Ogden et al., 2007;Franks et al., 2010). Health professionals in primary care settings are influential in the lives of families. Even brief advice delivered well can have a meaningful impact, and yet, health care providers indicate that lack of efficacy and skill, impact, patient motivation, and educational materials (Jelalian et al., 2003;Story et al., 2002;Shaikh et al., 2011) keep them from routinely addressing obesity prevention and treatment in their practices. To target this gap, SIMmersion, together with Drs. Fulkerson, Sherwood, and Fleming, proposes to develop, evaluate, and disseminate a computer-based training system with role-play simulations to train health care providers to effectively conduct discussions with parents and children to provide intervention for and reduce the likelihood of progression to childhood obesity. In accordance with effective simulation development (Issenberg et al., 2005) and adult learning theory, the proposed system will include interactive educational materials to facilitate knowledge acquisition, three virtual role-plays with simulated characters to facilitate skill acquisition, an an on-screen coach and comprehensive after-action review to provide impactful feedback. The three role-play practice sessions will allow health care providers to practice (1) sharing concerns about a child's weight with a parent, (2) conducting a follow-up visit with the parent of an overweight child a month after the initial discussion regarding weight, and (3) involving the child in a conversation about healthy choices. To evaluate the program's efficacy to change health care providers'skills in talking with parents and children, the research team proposes to conduct a randomized controlled trial. One-hundred health care providers from the Twin Cities Minnesota Metropolitan area will be randomly assigned to a wait-list control group (N=50) or the intervention group that will receive access to the training program (N=50). All participants will complete live standardized patient interviews at baseline and post- intervention. Thus, primary outcomes of the study are increases in participant skill levels measured via performance in role plays with trained actors. The development and evaluation of this training product could provide medical professionals the training they need to implement obesity treatment and prevention into routine practice. To that end, the team will focus commercialization efforts on increasing product awareness to medical schools, hospitals and private practices, and healthcare organizations. We anticipate that the training system will better prepare health care providers to promote lifestyle change among overweight and obese youth and their families.
Innovative and economical technologies that assist primary care physicians in acquiring competence in conducting discussions with parents to provide intervention for and reduce the likelihood of childhood obesity are needed. Educating and motivating parents to change family environments for overweight and obese children will reduce the instances of childhood obesity and the long-term impact it has on health and quality of life.