Automated Telephone Counseling for Parents of Overweight Children. A Randomized Controlled Trial

Paul A. Estabrooks, Jo Ann Shoup, Michelle Gattshall, Padma Dandamudi, Susan Shetterly, Stan Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Background: Interactive technologies have the potential to increase the reach and frequency of practical clinical interventions that assist the parents of overweight and at-risk children to promote healthy lifestyle behaviors for their families. Design: A practical RCT evaluated the relative effectiveness of three interventions to support parents of overweight or at-risk children to change the home environment to foster more healthful child eating and activity behaviors, thereby reducing child BMI and BMI z-scores. A secondary purpose was to determine the patterns of use and potential dose effect for the highest-intensity intervention. Setting/participants: Parent-and-child (aged 8-12 years) dyads (N=220) who received care from Kaiser Permanente Colorado were assigned randomly to one of the three Family Connections (FC) interventions: FC-workbook, FC-group, or FC-interactive voice response (IVR) counseling. Main outcome measures: Child BMI z-scores, as well as symptoms of eating disorders and body image, were assessed at baseline, 6 months, and 12 months. Results: The BMI z-scores of children assigned to the FC-IVR intervention were the only ones that decreased from baseline to 6 months (0.07 SD) and from baseline to 12 months (0.08 SD, p<0.05). Children whose parents completed at least six of the ten FC-IVR counseling calls had decreased BMI z-scores to a greater extent than children in the FC-workbook or FC-group interventions at both 6 months (p<0.05) and 12 months (p<0.01). No intervention increased child symptoms of eating disorders or body dissatisfaction at any time point. Conclusions: This trial demonstrated that automated telephone counseling can support the parents of overweight children to reduce the extent to which their children are overweight. Trial registration: NCT00433901.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-42.e2
JournalAmerican Journal of Preventive Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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