University of Massachusetts Medical School Faculty Publications


Randomized trial of a family-based, automated, conversational obesity treatment program for underserved populations

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Quantitative Health Sciences



Document Type



Behavior and Behavior Mechanisms | Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Health Information Technology | Health Services Administration | Pediatrics | Preventive Medicine


OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the acceptability and feasibility of a scalable obesity treatment program integrated with pediatric primary care (PC) and delivered using interactive voice technology (IVR) to families from underserved populations.

DESIGN AND METHODS: Fifty parent-child dyads (child 9-12 yrs, BMI > 95th percentile) were recruited from a pediatric PC clinic and randomized to either an IVR or a wait-list control (WLC) group. The majority were lower-income, African-American (72%) families. Dyads received IVR calls for 12 weeks. Call content was informed by two evidence-based interventions. Anthropometric and behavioral variables were assessed at baseline and 3-month follow-up.

RESULTS: Forty-three dyads completed the study. IVR parents ate one cup more fruit than WLC (P < 0.05). No other group differences were found. Children classified as high users of the IVR decreased weight, BMI, and BMI z-score compared to low users ( P < 0.05). Mean number of calls for parents and children were 9.1 (5.2 SD) and 9.0 (5.7 SD), respectively. Of those who made calls, >75% agreed that the calls were useful, made for people like them, credible, and helped them eat healthy foods.

CONCLUSION: An obesity treatment program delivered via IVR may be an acceptable and feasible resource for families from underserved populations.

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Citation: Wright, J. A., Phillips, B.D., Watson, B.L., Newby, P.K., Norman, G.J. and Adams, W.G. (2013), Randomized trial of a family-based, automated, conversational obesity treatment program for underserved populations. Obesity, 21: E369–E378. doi: 10.1002/oby.20388 Link to article on publisher's site

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