Conference Highlights Efforts to Combat Childhood Obesity

June 25, 2009

Researchers from the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California are using technology as a tool for combating obesity in children.

Researchers from the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California are using technology as a tool for combating obesity in children.

Michael I. Goran, PhD, professor of preventive medicine, physiology and biophysics and pediatrics, and director of the USC Childhood Obesity Research Center at Keck, served as lead author of the study, in which two Los Angeles schools were given CD-ROMs for an eight-week long health curriculum and two others received educational CD-ROMs that were not about health. The findings showed that the CD-ROMs “had a significant impact on obesity reduction in girls, but not in boys.”

Donna Spruijt-Metz, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine at Keck, shared the findings of Goran’s study at the 5th Biennial Childhood Obesity Conference.

In her presentation, Spruijt-Metz said that the results reflect that boys and girls have “very different activity levels and attitudes about activity” and that steps to combat obesity and increase physical activity must be tailored specifically to each group. However, she also said that the findings show that technology is an “important tool” in preventing childhood obesity.

“Technology gives us more objective and reliable measures than self-reporting,” Spruijt-Metz said. “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.”

Spruijt-Metz also gave a presentation on the KNOWME NETWORKS study, which is in development. The network includes wearable wireless sensors that measure physical activity, stress, location in time and space, body fat, and other factors. The data is immediately transferred to a server for storage and analyses. In addition, according to Spruijt-Metz the device will be calibrated for each individual, and will allow researchers to “ping” a participant who is sedentary for too long.