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

Publication Date


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.


UMCCTS funding

DOI of Published Version



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

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.)

PubMed ID