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Study: Nonmedical Professionals Can Be Trained To Effectively Deliver Pediatric Obesity Treatment Program

New research reveals that nonmedical professionals without prior pediatric weight control experience can be trained to effectively deliver a childhood obesity treatment program and produce meaningful results.

The results of the study, which focused on JOIN for ME ® – a community-based, pediatric obesity intervention program developed by UnitedHealth Group – will help efforts to scale the initiative nationally. The research was published in the peer-reviewed journal International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (Feb. 13, 2014).

Researchers evaluated the JOIN for ME facilitators who did not have a medical background to identify key characteristics needed to effectively deliver the program, including interpersonal skills and ability to manage group interactions. They also looked at how closely the facilitators adhered to the protocol. Researchers then evaluated the relationship between facilitator characteristics and adherence to protocol with the level of weight reduction among participants. They found that there was a correlation between protocol adherence and a decrease in weight among participants.

A study published in the October 2012 issue of Pediatrics showed JOIN For ME resulted in a clinically significant reduction in excess weight and improved health-related quality of life among overweight and obese children. This follow-up research on facilitators aimed to find ways to make the program’s success sustainable and broaden its reach.

“An important factor in making community-based treatment programs work is ensuring the group facilitator can both deliver the evidence-based content and engage with children and families who are enrolled,” said Deborah Sundal, senior vice president of UnitedHealth Group’s Center for Health Reform & Modernization and one of the report’s authors. “Our study found that it is important to invest in training nonmedical professionals to deliver the JOIN for ME content and consistently use group-facilitation skills. When both are used optimally, we see higher family engagement and better results, including a reduction of excess weight.”

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