OREANDA-NEWS  When trying to help a child lose weight, involving a parent in treatment makes the entire family healthier, a new study shows.

Researchers tested a family-based treatment that included weekly meetings over a period of several months. Parents learned how to engineer a home environment that supported healthy eating and activity. They also learned to practice their own healthy behaviors so their kids could learn to make healthier choices.

Childhood obesity in the US has reached epidemic levels: Nearly one in three children is overweight or has obesity. The overall rate is 17 percent, with 6 percent of kids having severe obesity.

It is one of the biggest drivers of preventable, chronic diseases and health-care costs in the United States, with cost estimates ranging from $147 billion to nearly $210 billion per year. The current generation of children may be the first to live shorter lives than their parents.

The researchers found that when parents and children received follow-up care that was more comprehensive after an initial intervention, both did better than others whose follow-up was less comprehensive. The researchers tested a more and a less intensive version of the follow-up program and found that those who received the higher “dose” of follow-up also had better outcomes.

Denise E. Wilfley, professor of psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis who led the study, which appears in JAMA Pediatrics, talks about why the program works.