Childhood Obesity in Preschool-Age Children

Obesity is a nationwide problem that affects all age groups, including preschool children. Being obese at a young age increases the likelihood of being obese as an adult, elevating the risk of many health conditions including diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. Our lab is conducting research to learn more about the unique aspects of preschool obesity and to develop an intervention to reduce obesity in this population.


Despite the fact that rates of obesity have tripled among children ages 2 to 5 during the past 30 years, there are currently no treatment programs aimed at reducing obesity in this age group. Using a model developed for cystic fibrosis (CF), our team is creating an intervention program to reduce obesity in already obese preschoolers.

The program, Learning about Activity and Understanding Nutrition for better Child Health (LAUNCH), incorporates developmentally specific targets of behavior change such as addressing preschool children’s reluctance to try new foods (food neophobia) and tantruming. It also incorporates novel approaches to treatment delivery by using home visits to supplement material presented in clinic-based treatment. LAUNCH is currently recruiting families to participate in a NIH funded three-arm, randomized controlled clinical trial to evaluate the skills-based clinic and home intervention (LAUNCH) compared to a motivational intervention (MI) that is matched on number of treatment sessions and to standard of care as it is delivered in “real world” pediatric practices.


Currently, 4.2 percent of preschool-aged children are severely obese. There is a pressing need to understand whether preschoolers at these extremely high weights present with different challenges specific to treatment than those who are merely obese.

The ways in which parents feed and interact with their children around food appear to be on a continuum with child weight, but failure of previous studies to include severely obese preschoolers prevents the upper end of this continuum from being defined.

The Feeding and Child Eating Study (FACES) seeks to address this gap by using observational, experimental and self-report methodologies to examine child eating and parent feeding behaviors that may help us understand mechanisms that lead to severe obesity in preschoolers.