Childhood obesity is a serious public health problem. Although previous environmental approaches to obesity prevention show some promise, most studies have not shown excess weight gain reductions. Moreover, few childhood obesity prevention studies significantly engage parents or focus on the home environment, which is essential to promote healthy behaviors at home. Children in rural communities are particularly vulnerable regarding increased risk for obesity; thus, successful programs that engage families in rural communities to prevent excess weight gain are critical. The proposed research project, New Ulm-Healthy Home Environments via the Mealtime Environment (NU-HOME), is a unique collaboration between leaders in a rural community and successful academic obesity researchers. New Ulm, Minnesota is a rural community with obesity prevalence rates that far exceed national rates. Moreover, they are poised for and are requesting interventions to promote healthful behavior change, particularly for youth. In conjunction with our many community stakeholder groups, the objective of the proposed research is to test the effectiveness of the NU-HOME program, a 7-month, family-based health promotion intervention to prevent excess weight gain (assessed via BMI z-score) among 7-10 year old children (n=120) in the New Ulm rural community. The intervention program is based on Social Cognitive Theory and a socio-ecological framework and will focus on novel health promotion components to prevent childhood obesity, including: 1) promoting regular meals in which family members cook and eat together (i.e., family meals), 2) promoting nutritionally-sound and appropriately-portioned snacks and meals, 3) reducing sedentary behavior, particularly screen time in the home setting, and 4) promoting physical activity through collaboration with community partners. The NU-HOME study is designed in four stages, including substantial formative work between the academic and community partners, a two-arm randomized controlled trial (RCT; intervention and wait-list control), and two activities to facilitate sustainability (delayed intervention delivry for control group participants and dissemination). A community-based participatory research (CBPR) approach will be used to adapt an existing program that was piloted (HOME pilot: 2006-2008, NIH R21- DK0072997) and shown to be effective (HOME Plus: 2010-2015, NIH R01-DK084000) in urban communities. The NU-HOME program has high translation potential and is likely to be immediately useful to rural families of school-age children because it will be tested n a real-world setting in collaboration with engaged, knowledgeable and influential community partners.
The goal of the proposed project (NU-HOME) is to see if an innovative family-focused, community-based intervention that focuses on making healthful home food changes, especially at family meals, and promoting physical activity within the home can prevent children living in rural communities from gaining excess weight. The study will provide important information on strategies that families in rural communities can use to prevent obesity. The NU-HOME program has high translation potential because it will be tested in real-world community settings in collaboration with engaged, knowledgeable and influential community partners.