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  • Researchers Call for Providers to 'Embrace' Social Media in Prevention, Management of Childhood Obesity

    Health care providers should embrace social media's potential as a tool for promoting healthy behavioral change in children who are overweight and obese, says a new American Heart Association scientific statement published online in the association's journal Circulation. 

    The writing group evaluated research on Internet-based interventions to lose weight, increase physical activity, and improve eating habits.

    "The studies we looked at suggest that more parental involvement and more interaction with counselors and peers was associated with greater success rates for overweight children and teens who participated in an online intervention," says Jennifer S. Li, MD, MHS, chair of the writing group, in an AHA press release.  

    Variables that influenced success were whether the rest of the family was involved in the intervention, the degree of back-and-forth communication and feedback with a counselor or support group, and the frequency with which kids and adolescents logged on and used the programs.

    People who are overweight or obese tend to share a home or spend their leisure time with others who are overweight or obese, according to research.

    "Athletes tend to hang out with athletes, and overweight kids hang out together, so they reinforce each other's eating habits or preferences for recreational activities," Li said.

    About 95% of 12- to 17-year-old children have Internet access at home and/or in school, so online social network health interventions should be explored as an effective way to prevent or manage excessive weight, Li said.

    However, the downsides to social media include exposure to cyber bullying, privacy issues, "sexting," and Internet addiction that can cause sleep deprivation, Li adds.

    The authors recommend clinicians, policy makers, and researchers ensure privacy protection, monitor outcomes, and harness the strength of a health promotion social network to devise interventions that initiate and sustain behavior changes such self-monitoring, goal-setting, and problem-solving.

    More research is needed to provide data on overweight and obese adolescents to determine whether differences in gender, ethnicity, geographic location, and socioeconomic status affect the efficacy and level of engagement with social media and technologically based weight management interventions, says AHA.

    For information on APTA's social media policy and resources that can help PTs and PTAs stay informed, engage with peers on professional issues, and share the benefits of physical therapy with consumers, go to APTA's Social Media Tips & Best Practices webpage.


    • Technology can definitely help with combating obesity in children. My only reservation is, children from poor background, lacking internet access would slip through the obesity net. What are we going to do about them?

      Posted by Ajan Fofanah on 12/11/2012 12:32 PM

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