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Motivational interviewing for screening and feedback and encouraging lifestyle changes to reduce relative weight in 4-8 year old children: design of the MInT study

Rachael W Taylor1*, Deirdre Brown2, Anna M Dawson3, Jill Haszard4, Adell Cox5, Elaine A Rose6, Barry J Taylor3, Kim Meredith-Jones1, Lee Treacy5, Jim Ross7 and Sheila M William8

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medical and Surgical Sciences, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

2 School of Psychology, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand

3 Department of Women's and Children's Health, University of Otago, Dunedin, NZ

4 Department of Human Nutrition, University of Otago, Dunedin, NZ

5 Pediatrics Services, Otago District Health Board, Dunedin, NZ

6 School of Physical Education, University of Otago, Dunedin, NZ

7 Department of General Practice, University of Otago, Dunedin, NZ

8 Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, University of Otago, Dunedin, NZ

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:271  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-271

Published: 24 May 2010



Because parental recognition of overweight in young children is poor, we need to determine how best to inform parents that their child is overweight in a way that enhances their acceptance and supports motivation for positive change. This study will assess 1) whether weight feedback delivered using motivational interviewing increases parental acceptance of their child's weight status and enhances motivation for behaviour change, and 2) whether a family-based individualised lifestyle intervention, delivered primarily by a MInT mentor with limited support from "expert" consultants in psychology, nutrition and physical activity, can improve weight outcomes after 12 and 24 months in young overweight children, compared with usual care.


1500 children aged 4-8 years will be screened for overweight (height, weight, waist, blood pressure, body composition). Parents will complete questionnaires on feeding practices, physical activity, diet, parenting, motivation for healthy lifestyles, and demographics. Parents of children classified as overweight (BMI ≥ CDC 85th) will receive feedback about the results using Motivational interviewing or Usual care. Parental responses to feedback will be assessed two weeks later and participants will be invited into the intervention. Additional baseline measurements (accelerometry, diet, quality of life, child behaviour) will be collected and families will be randomised to Tailored package or Usual care. Parents in the Usual care condition will meet once with an advisor who will offer general advice regarding healthy eating and activity. Parents in the Tailored package condition will attend a single session with an "expert team" (MInT mentor, dietitian, physical activity advisor, clinical psychologist) to identify current challenges for the family, develop tailored goals for change, and plan behavioural strategies that best suit each family. The mentor will continue to provide support to the family via telephone and in-person consultations, decreasing in frequency over the two-year intervention. Outcome measures will be obtained at baseline, 12 and 24 months.


This trial offers a unique opportunity to identify effective ways of providing feedback to parents about their child's weight status and to assess the efficacy of a supportive, individualised early intervention to improve weight outcomes in young children.

Trial registration

Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12609000749202