WVU Medicine Children’s receives grant to improve healthy lifestyles


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – WVU Medicine Children’s has been awarded a $366,000 grant by the National Institutes of Health’s Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) Program to improve the health of children in West Virginia.

Dr. Lee Pyles

Lee Pyles, M.D., WVU Medicine Children’s pediatric cardiologist and primary investigator of the study, spoke with 12 News about the goals for the iAmHealthy study, an iPad-based group intervention with the goal of increasing physical activity and awareness of healthy food choices.

To be included in the study, children must be between the ages of 6 – 11 years old and have a body mass index in the 85th percentile. According to Dr. Pyles, nearly half of the children in the state have a body mass index in this range.

Q: Can you go into detail about the iAmHealthy study and what the experience will be for the children and parents?

A: “The point of the study is to figure out how to address the need for lifestyle intervention for kids who are overweight and obese. What we know is that they need parents involved and at least 25 contact hours. The way we’re going to do is that each family is going to receive an iPad to use and then return it. They’ll have weekly meetings with a psychologist and dietician to learn more about how to live healthily.”

Q: What are the requirements the child must meet to be involved in the study?

A: “Something called Body Mass Index has to be above the 85th percentile, meaning they have more body mass than most children. They have to be part of the Pediatric Associates of Bridgeport, so that’s Dr. Brian Policano and his group.”

Q: How did you come up with the resources for the children and parents to help keep them on track during the process?

A: “There’s been a little bit of preliminary work and a lady in Kansas has done a similar study through the school system. We think that this is a way to get that amount of contact hours with a bunch of children. There will probably be about 10 to 12 children, plus their parents in this group. We think that this is a way that this can happen and be cheap enough to provide this much support.

This is a great study and if it works out, then we can figure out how it could really be done here in West Virginia where we lead the nation in childhood obesity. There will be a control group that gets a newsletter from the American Academy of Pediatrics that talks about lifestyle, being healthy and making good food choices.”

Q: Since the study was initiated in February before the Coronavirus, how will the children be able to complete the study while the Coronavirus is still happening?

A: “This is going to work because we’ve reinvented the study. We’re going to mail a scale and tape measure to the families. The 10 people we already had that was going to do it, we’re reaching out to them. We began on Monday [June 8] to talk to them about whether they’re still willing to do it. They’re not going to have to go to the doctor’s office at all to be in this study. We think that’s a way to keep everyone safe. We don’t want children to be in the doctor’s office with other sick kids just to do a research study, so the entire thing has been revamped to do it remotely.”

Q: What outcomes or results are you hoping to gain at the end of the study?

A: “What we’d like to see is a reduction in that body mass index for the child and for the parent who is participating. We don’t know for sure that it will impact the parent but we have a fairly good idea that it’ll impact them as well. The reason to track the parent, too, is that there is so much strong evidence that without a parent/guardian involved in this self improvement process most children cannot do this on their own. They really have to have family support.”

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