USC researchers present new strategies to prevent childhood obesity

Researchers from the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC) will present new findings and strategies for combating childhood obesity at the 5th Biennial Childhood Obesity Conference being held June 9-12 in Los Angeles.

Researchers will participate in oral discussions on using wireless body networks and interactive multimedia to promote physical activity in children, and the link between childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes.

USC experts are available at the meeting to discuss their findings and to provide commentary on issues related to childhood obesity.

Using technology to monitor and prevent obesity

Donna Spruijt-Metz, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Preventive Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine, will present an overview of the KNOWME NETWORKS study — a program to develop a Mobile Body Area Network that monitors obesity indicators in minority youth.

The network, developed in conjunction with the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, will use a set of wearable wireless sensors that measure physical activity, stress, location in time and space, body fat and a number of other factors. Data will be immediately transmitted to a secure server for storage and analyses. The KNOWME device will be calibrated for the specific user, and researchers will be able to “ping” a participant who remains sedentary for too long, Spruijt-Metz says.

Her presentation includes findings of a study led by colleague Michael I. Goran, Ph.D., professor of preventive medicine, physiology and biophysics and pediatrics, and director of the USC Childhood Obesity Research Center at the Keck School of Medicine. The study looks at the impact of a computer-based education program on promoting physical activity in fourth-grade students.

Two Los Angeles County schools used interactive CD-ROMS for an eight-week long health curriculum, while two control schools received educational CD-ROMS not related to health. Researchers found that the program had a significant impact on obesity reduction in girls, but not in boys.

The results reflect the fact that girls and boys have very different activity levels and attitudes about activity, and that interventions will need to be tailored more specifically, Spruijt-Metz says. However, she believes the study also indicates that technology is an important tool in preventing obesity in youth.

“Technology gives us more objective and reliable measures than self-reporting,” she says. “It is particularly appealing because it offers immediate feedback and will allow interventionists and health professionals to respond directly to the child’s behavior as part of the intervention.”

The oral presentation will take place Wednesday, June 10, at 10:30 a.m. (Session: Can Interactive Media Games Really Increase Physical Activity and Reduce Overweight and Obesity in Children?)

Type 2 diabetes

Francine Kaufman, M.D., professor of pediatrics at the Keck School of Medicine, head of the division of endocrinology and metabolism at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles and author of the popular book “Diabesity,” will participate in a discussion that will address prevention as well as treatment of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and lipid disorders in children and teens who are overweight or obese.

The plenary session will take place Thursday, June 11, at 10:30 a.m. (Session: Preventing the Co-Morbidities of Childhood Obesity).

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