WVU Medicine Children’s receives grant to improve lifestyles

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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 Program to implement a lifestyle improvement intervention study for children with a high body mass index.

The iAmHealthy study is an iPad-based group intervention with the goal of increasing physical activity and awareness of healthy food choices, according to a WVU Medicine press release. Lee Pyles, M.D., the WVU Medicine Children’s pediatric cardiologist and primary investigator of the study, said they tried to start the study in February, but then the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to redesign the entire study to make it virtual. Now, families will have zero in-person visits with doctors, instead, they will be sent scales and step counters. Pyles said the study in conjunction with Pediatric Associates of Bridgeport.

Lee Pyles, M.D.

We’re allowed to have as many as 32 children. Half of them we’re going to simply watch, they’re what we call controlled families and the study is going to last seven months and where we stand is we’ve got a week left where that we’re allowed to get 10 more families. But they just all have to be from Pediatric Associates.

Lee Pyles, M.D. – WVU Medicine Children’s Chief Pediatric Cardiologist

According to the release, 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. Nearly half of the children in the state have a body mass index in this range. Pyles said the point of the study is to try and create a group that is going to support each other and have regular sessions, which are going to alternate between a counselor and a dietician. He said children who are not in the controlled group will meet once a week and then that will be scaled back over the course of the seven month period.

He said the study is not interested in dieting because they don’t like children to diet, but it will focus on body mass index (BMI), which is calculated by their weight divided by their height, squared.

“What we have figured nationally is that it takes 26 contact hours to change BMI,” Pyles said. “And so just going to see the doctor and having that chat ‘you need to take better care of yourself’ generally that doesn’t help most people. They need more follow up and more encouragement.”

The idea, Pyles said, is to use this experiment to see if it is possible to implement such a system on a large scale in West Virginia and possibly around the nation. He encourages all parents who are interested in their children participating to contact his office.

“I’m going to be finishing the recruitment phase at the end of this week and so if there was anyone that was very interested in participating, I want them to give me a call,” Pyles said. “They can talk to Dr. Policano’s office, the Pediatric Associates and they can check in with those guys in case they have questions. But also they can just call my office which is 304-293-7036. “

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