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Behavioral counseling to prevent childhood obesity – study protocol of a pragmatic trial in maternity and child health care

Taina Mustila12*, Päivi Keskinen34 and Riitta Luoto56

Author affiliations

1 Seinäjoki Central Hospital, Hanneksenrinne 7, 60220 Seinäjoki, Finland

2 Vaasa Central Hospital, Hietalahdenkatu 2 – 4, 65130 Vaasa, Finland

3 Pediatric Research Centre, 33014 University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland

4 Tampere University Hospital, 33521, Tampere, Finland

5 UKK Institute for Health Promotion, 33501, Tampere, Finland

6 National Institute for Health and Welfare, 00271, Helsinki, Finland

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Citation and License

BMC Pediatrics 2012, 12:93  doi:10.1186/1471-2431-12-93

Published: 3 July 2012



Prevention is considered effective in combating the obesity epidemic. Prenatal environment may increase offspring's risk for obesity. A child starts to adopt food preferences and other behavioral habits affecting weight gain during preschool years. We report the study protocol of a pragmatic lifestyle intervention aiming at primary prevention of childhood obesity.


A non-randomized controlled pragmatic trial in maternity and child health care clinics. The control group was recruited among families who visited the same clinics one year earlier. Eligibility criteria was mother at risk for gestational diabetes: body mass index ≥ 25 kg/m2, macrosomic newborn in any previous pregnancy, immediate family history of diabetes and/or age ≥ 40 years. All maternity clinics in town involved in recruitment. The gestational intervention consisted of individual counseling on diet and physical activity by a public health nurse, and of two group counseling sessions. Intervention continues until offspring’s age of five years. An option to participate a group counseling at child’s age 1 to 2 years was offered. The intervention includes advice on healthy diet, physical activity, sedentary behavior and sleeping pattern. The main outcome measure is offspring BMI z-score and its changes by the age of six years.


Early childhood is a critical time period for prevention of obesity. Pragmatic trials targeting this period are necessary in order to find effective obesity prevention programs feasible in normal health care practice.

Trial registration

Clinical Trials gov NCT00970710

Childhood obesity; Intervention; Lifestyle; Pragmatic; Prevention