(HealthDay News) – A home-based intervention to encourage healthy habits, such as family meals, adequate sleep, and limited television time, may offer an approach to preventing child obesity in low-income families, according to research published online Sept. 9 in JAMA Pediatrics.

Jess Haines, PhD, of the University of Guelph in Canada, and colleagues randomly assigned 121 low-income families, with children aged 2–5 years (525 Hispanic, 34% black, and 14% white/other) who had a television in the sleep area, to either an intervention group or a control group. The six-month intervention consisted of at-home and phone-based coaching, educational mail, and text messages to promote family meals, adequate sleep, limited television time, and removal of the television from the child’s bedroom.

The researchers found that, compared with children in the control group, those in the intervention group had increased sleep duration (0.75 hours per day; P=0.03), larger decreases in television time on weekend days (−1.06 hours per day; P=0.02), and reduced body mass index (−0.4; P=0.05). No difference between the groups was observed for frequency of family meals or presence of a television in the child’s sleeping area.

“By focusing on behaviors that in and of themselves are good regardless of BMI, Haines et al have provided us with an intervention that can be considered in and of itself desirable even if the obesity effect is transient,” writes the author of an accompanying editorial.

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