In-home Obesity Prevention to Reach Low-income Infants

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University of Southern California




Obesity; Familial
Obesity, Childhood


Behavioral: Standard HVP Curriculum
Behavioral: Obesity Prevention

Study type


Funder types



1R01HD092483-01 (U.S. NIH Grant/Contract)

Details and patient eligibility


Existing obesity prevention efforts have had limited success among underserved, low-income children. This study capitalizes on the strengths of a nationwide ongoing Home Visitation Program (HVP), which serves at-risk, low-income, ethnically/racially diverse mothers and their infants, to test the effectiveness of delivering obesity prevention as part of their weekly, in-home services. The study will evaluate whether the integration of an obesity prevention enhancement module into existing HVP services, reduces the risk and incidence of obesity and associated risk factors in mothers and infants, compared to the provision of standard home visitation services. The study also focuses on the role of maternal factors (maternal diet, physical activity, food insecurity and feeding practices) and social factors (social network support) as mechanisms operating on infant outcomes.

Full description

More than 40% of children enrolled in federally funded programs are overweight or obese by age 5. Unfortunately, extant obesity efforts have had a limited impact among low-income underserved children, in part because of limitations inherent to existing programs: 1) short duration and low intensity; 2) late timing of implementation, when children are already overweight or obese; 3) delivery methods limiting their accessibility and sustainability; and 4) failure to address barriers such as a lack of culturally competent services, poverty, housing instability, and access to care, which interfere with healthy lifestyle changes. To address these gaps, we have integrated simple, evidence-based nutrition and physical activity components as part of the services already delivered by our home visitation partner, Healthy Families America, with the long-term goal to deploy these efforts to Home Visitation Programs (HVPs) nationwide. Annually, over 500 publicly and privately funded HVPs provide nationwide services to more than 650,000 low-income, underserved infants and their families. The home visiting structure is not only an unparalleled model for scalable and sustainable childhood obesity prevention, but it also provides a unique opportunity to understand factors related to the intergenerational transmission of obesity in families who are most at risk. Over the last four years, our transdisciplinary team of researchers, home visiting stakeholders, families, and community stakeholders has integrated evidence-based nutrition and physical activity components into an engaging obesity prevention curriculum delivered in English and Spanish as an enhancement module to the services of our HVP partner. Our pilot work supports the successful integration, feasibility, and preliminary efficacy of integrating obesity prevention as part of HVP services. The proposed study tests the large-scale and sustained impact of home-based obesity prevention on infant's and mothers' obesity outcomes, and studies key mechanisms of maternal and social transmission on infants' obesity risk. Specifically, 300 low-income mothers/infants enrolled in Healthy Families America's HVP will be recruited and enrolled in the study. Based on standard HVP procedures, mothers/infants will be matched to highly trained home visitors based on their ethnicity/race and language preferences. Home visitors, in turn, will be randomly assigned to deliver the standard HVP curriculum only or the standard HVP curriculum + obesity prevention as part of their weekly home visits, for the first 12 months of HVP services. Comprehensive assessments of mothers/infants will be conducted at enrollment and after 6 and 12 months of intervention. Aim 1 (maternal and infant outcomes). Test the direct effects of obesity prevention on infants and mothers' weight, metabolic risks, diet/energy intake, and physical activity. This will be accomplished by comparing changes in body weight, metabolic markers, and eating and activity-related behaviors between infants/mothers across study arms (HVP only vs. HVP+obesity prevention). These results will indicate whether HVP is an effective infrastructure for primary and secondary obesity prevention. Aim 2 (maternal transmission). Test whether breastfeeding and maternal diet and activity, feeding practices, and food insecurity mediate the effect of obesity prevention on infants' outcomes. This aim will test mechanisms of maternal transmission on infants' obesity risks. Aim 3 (social transmission). Aim 3 is two-pronged. Aim 3a tests the direct effect of HVP+obesity prevention (vs. HVP only) on the characteristics of the social and community networks that surround mothers and infants (i.e., the density, composition, and quality of health support networks). Aim 3b tests whether the characteristics of social networks mediate the effects of obesity prevention on maternal and infant outcomes. These findings will indicate if the delivery of in-home obesity prevention efforts can alter and/or activate social network mechanisms. Secondary Aim. Conduct a real-life economic analysis (costs, cost-savings, and non-monetary benefits) of integrating obesity prevention into existing HVPs. This proposal addresses the impetus to develop interventions targeting at-risk infants before obesity is established. Although maternal-infant interventions are much-needed, they present implementation and dissemination challenges, including limitations on compliance and retention, and limited potential for scalability and sustainability. Our proposed strategy overcomes these challenges through an innovative solution that merges evidence-based nutrition and activity components into an existing, ongoing federally-funded infrastructure. The proposed research is timely as the Institute of Medicine, the United States Department of Agriculture, and Health and Human Services (DHHS) extend their recommendations to address key factors influencing obesity risk in children from birth to 24 months of age.


156 patients




2+ months old


Accepts Healthy Volunteers

Inclusion and exclusion criteria

*Important: Mother (or caregiver) and child dyads are enrolled together. Both must meet inclusion criteria to participate.

Inclusion Criteria:


  • Enrolled in a partnered home visitation program
  • Mother or primary caregiver of 2-8 month old child
  • BMI above 18.5
  • Generally Healthy


  • 2-8 months of age at time of enrollment
  • Parent or primary caregiver receiving home visitation services

Exclusion Criteria:


  • Any history of an eating or feeding disorder, or obesity related syndrome (such as Prader-Willi)
  • Diagnosis of Schizophrenia
  • Currently enrolled in a diet and weight loss program, AND either a) significant weight loss of 10+ pounds in the last 6 months, OR b) unwilling to discontinue from current diet and weight loss program.


  • Infant is clinically underweight (<5th percentile) or has a history of a feeding or eating disorder

Trial design

Primary purpose




Interventional model

Parallel Assignment


Single Blind

156 participants in 2 patient groups

Standard HVP Curriculum
Active Comparator group
Participants will receive the standard Healthy Families America (HFA) home visitation curriculum delivered by trained home visitors. The HFA model meets the Department of Health and Human Services criteria for an "evidence-based early childhood home visiting service delivery model". HFA services begin prenatally and continue until children are 2-5yo. The curriculum focuses on strengthening parent-child relationships and family functioning, promoting positive child development, and linkage to community resources. Accredited home visitors are matched to families on cultural background and language, to provide culturally sensitive services. Home visitors receive weekly supervision, ongoing developmental training, and have limited caseloads (10-15 families) to meet their families' needs.
Behavioral: Standard HVP Curriculum
Obesity Prevention
Experimental group
Participants will receive the standard Healthy Families America home visitation curriculum with the obesity prevention enhancement module, delivered by trained home visitors. Families are matched to home visitors based on their ethnicity/race and language preferences. The obesity prevention program targets 4 key behaviors (physical activity, fruit and vegetable consumption, sugary beverages, fried foods) aimed at reducing obesity risks in mothers and their children. Participants will also be provided opportunities to meet in groups with other participating mothers/infants to enhance social networks that support healthy eating and physical activity.
Behavioral: Obesity Prevention
Behavioral: Standard HVP Curriculum

Trial contacts and locations



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