An obesity telephone intervention consisting of a series of phone calls and short messages may improve dietary behaviors and encourage children to meet appropriate activity recommendations, according to a study published in the International Journal of Obesity. In households with lower income (<80,000 Australian dollars per year), the initiative was associated with lower mean body mass index (BMI), the report shows.

Researchers included 622 women with children aged 2 years in the 2-arm, randomized controlled trial conducted between March 2019 and October 2020. Study participants underwent random assignment to the obesity telephone intervention, during which they received a total of 3 support phone calls plus short messages, or to a control group, where they received usual care plus 2 mailed booklets that were unrelated to the intervention. The study duration was 1 year and individuals in the intervention group received the support calls while their children were aged 24 to 26, 28 to 30, and 32 to 34 months.

The primary outcome was BMI at age 3 years, while secondary outcomes included dietary and activity behaviors.

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Among the children included in the clinical trial, 470 (71%) had height and weight measures (intervention, n=211; control, n=259). While there were no statistically significant differences in BMI or BMI z-scores between patients who underwent the obesity telephone intervention and the control group (P =.111 and P =.148, respectively), the report shows that the intervention improved dietary and activity behaviors. Children in the intervention group were less likely to eat while watching television (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 1.79; 95% CI, 1.17-2.73; P =.008), more likely to adhere to dietary recommendations [aOR, 1.73; 95% CI, 0.99-3.02; P =.054) and more likely to meet activity recommendations (aOR, 1.72; 95% CI, 1.11-2.67; P =.015) compared with control group participants.  

A subgroup analysis of children from households with lower incomes (n=149) revealed that the obesity telephone intervention was associated with lower BMI and BMI z-scores (P =.028 and P =.032, respectively). This finding highlights the need for educational initiatives designed to reduce overweight and obesity among this population, the researchers argue.

The use of parent-reported height and weight measures due to COVID-19-related restrictions is an acknowledge limitation to the research.

“[C]hildren from lower socio-economic families and communities are at higher risk of overweight and obesity; arguably, obesity prevention programs should be targeting these socioeconomically disadvantaged families,” according to the study authors.  


Wen LM, Xu H, Phongsavan P, et al. Twelve-month effectiveness of telephone and SMS support to mothers with children aged 2 years in reducing children’s BMI: a randomized controlled trialInt J Obes (Lond). Published online April 22, 2023. doi:10.1038/s41366-023-01311-7

This article originally appeared on Endocrinology Advisor