The obesity rates continue to rise; since the 1980s, obesity’s prevalence among children and adolescents has tripled in the USA (Matson & Fallon, 2012). Different interventions are suggested to address the problem of obesity and include pharmacological treatment, lifestyle changes, education provided to children and their parents to raise awareness of these issues, and combined approaches that include some or all of these interventions. Dietary and behavioral modifications and physical activity were reported to be imperative for preventing and treating obesity in children (Matson & Fallon, 2012).
At the same time, lifestyle interventions are often not enough to decrease obesity rates in children or treat this condition (Matson & Fallon, 2012). The research on the use of pharmacological treatment in children is relatively limited, but orlistat and metformin are among the most common medication used for obesity treatment. Obesity can lead to different negative outcomes, including physical (e.g., cardiovascular disease) and social (stigmatization, discrimination, low self-esteem, etc.) ones.
As it is yet unclear what interventions exactly can help decrease the adverse outcomes of obesity and prevent it, it is necessary to compare the effectiveness of different interventions for such evaluation. Many interventions use a combined approach to treat obesity, which does not allow researchers to evaluate the effectiveness of separate programs. The purpose of the study is to compare the effectiveness of education of parents about healthy lifestyles with pharmacotherapy for obesity approved for children (e.g., use of orlistat) in reducing negative outcomes of obesity and preventing them.
Research Questions, Hypotheses, Variables
The research questions of the study are focused on the effectiveness of different interventions and their impact on obesity prevention and reduction of negative outcomes:
- Is the education of parents about the importance of a healthy lifestyle more effective in preventing obesity in children than pharmacological treatment?
- Is the education of parents more effective in reducing negative outcomes of obesity in children than pharmacological treatment?
As the research focuses on the comparison of two interventions, the research and null hypothesis will be formulated as follows:
- H0: The effectiveness of pharmacological treatment is greater in preventing obesity in children and reducing its negative outcomes compared to the education of parents about the importance of a healthy lifestyle.
- H1: The effectiveness of education of parents about the importance of a healthy lifestyle is greater in preventing obesity in children and reducing its negative outcomes compared to pharmacological treatment.
Categorical study variables include gender, race, and social status of participants. Quantitative study variables include age, the weight of participants (in kg), body mass index (BMI), weight loss maintenance period (in days or months), education training (hours per week), and medication (mg per day/week). The independent variables are the medication used in research (orlistat) measured in grams (e.g., three intakes per day = 120 mg x 3 = 360 mg per day), education provided to children’s parents measured in hours (e.g., one lesson = one hour; four lessons per week = four hours per week). The dependent variables include children’s weight, BMI, and weight loss maintenance period.
The operationalized variables are necessary as they help control the measurement constant (Grand Canyon University, n.d.). Education of parents is operationally defined as an eight-week intervention that includes 32 learning sessions (32 hours) about healthy lifestyles (importance of exercise, dieting, and avoidance of fast food are included); each session is one hour long, and each week will consist of four sessions. Pharmacological treatment consists of an eight-week intervention with orlistat, the only FDA-approved medication for treating children and adolescents with obesity, which will be taken by participants three times per day. The effectiveness of interventions and obesity prevention is operationally defined as a decrease in weight after the intervention and change in BMI. The reduction of negative outcomes includes weight loss maintenance for a month or more and positive changes in self-esteem.
Grand Canyon University. (n.d.). Variables and operational definitions. Web.
Matson, K. L., & Fallon, R. M. (2012). Treatment of obesity in children and adolescents. The Journal of Pediatric Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 17(1), 45-57.