Practical Lessons Learned from Adolescent and Parent Experiences Immediately and 12 Months following a Family-Based Healthy Lifestyle Intervention
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Background: Adolescence is a critical time to intervene and establish healthy long-term behaviors to decrease the impact of adult obesity in the future. The purpose of this study was to identify key intervention strategies and techniques for community interventions by analyzing the short-term and longer-term shared experiences of both adolescents with overweight or obesity and their parents involved in a community-based, healthy lifestyle intervention. Methods: Qualitative interviews and focus groups were conducted with teens (aged 12-16 years with a BMI above the 85th percentile) and their parents immediately following the 8-week intervention (n = 37 teens, n = 33 parents) and at 12 months follow-up (n = 23 teens, n = 20 parents). Results were analyzed thematically. Results: Both teens and parents reported high satisfaction with the program. Immediately following the 8-week intervention, teens reported enjoying participating in exercise with similar peers. Parents described inaccurate expectations from the program. After the 12-month follow-up, teens reported struggling with a cyclical pattern of health behaviors, and parents described a sense of loss following the intensive program and improved communication skills with their adolescent. Conclusions: Several practical strategies emerged for use in future community programs for adolescents with overweight or obesity. Future programs should consider management of expectations, perceptions vs. outcomes, and the cyclical nature of behavior change in adolescents. Strategies for future health behavior change interventions with overweight adolescents should address time management, translation of knowledge into behavior change, successful implementation of practical goal-setting strategies, and increasing intrinsic motivation.
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