Geisinger receives $3.8 million in funding support to study obesity prevention in preschool-age children,

Susan Ecenbarger
Friday, June 26, 2020

Three-year trial will study effectiveness of enhanced well-child visits

DANVILLE – Geisinger has received a $3.8 million funding award from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to study the effectiveness of enhanced well-child visits in preventing obesity in preschool-age children.

Researchers will compare two enhancements to standard well-child visits (WCVs) that are designed to prevent obesity in rural, low-income preschool-age children who receive care at Geisinger. These enhancements include a patient-reported outcomes model, in which providers can quickly assess a child’s risk of obesity and provide family-centered, behaviorally anchored counseling; and a model in which families are referred to community-based programs to improve food security, like Geisinger’s Fresh Food Farmacy.

“Primary care providers are on the front lines of obesity prevention, yet clinical preventive care has had limited success in preventing childhood obesity,” said Lisa Bailey-Davis, D.Ed., associate professor of population health sciences and associate director of the Obesity Institute at Geisinger, and the study’s principal investigator. “Multilevel approaches for obesity prevention have been developed for school-age children, but the current evidence is insufficient to provide direction for younger children.”

In 2018, more than 2 million children in the United States began kindergarten with obesity. The prevalence of obesity among preschool-age children has increased over the past decade, especially among those from lower income families living in rural communities. The preschool years are a critical period for preventive interventions, as rapid gains in body mass index (BMI) during this period lead to early-life obesity that is likely to persist for a lifetime.

“Nearly all preschool-age children attend well-child visits in primary care clinics, making this a sustainable model for intervention delivery, especially since parents and caregivers value and trust feedback from pediatricians,” Dr. Bailey-Davis said.

The 3-year study will be conducted in Geisinger pediatric and community medicine clinics in collaboration with Geisinger Wellness. PCORI's board has approved this award pending completion of a business and programmatic review by PCORI staff and issuance of a formal award contract.