Open Access Study protocol

Butterfly Girls; promoting healthy diet and physical activity to young African American girls online: rationale and design

Debbe Thompson1*, Rory Mahabir1, Riddhi Bhatt12, Cynthia Boutte1, Dora Cantu1, Isabel Vazquez1, Chishinga Callender1, Karen Cullen1, Tom Baranowski1, Yan Liu1, Celeste Walker3 and Richard Buday4

  • * Corresponding author: Debbe Thompson

  • † Equal contributors

Author Affiliations

1 USDA/ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center, Baylor College of Medicine, 1100 Bates Street, Houston TX 77030, USA

2 Department of Family and Community Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, 3701 Kirby Dr., Suite 600, Houston TX 77098, USA

3 Playwright, Houston, TX, USA

4 Archimage, 4203 Montrose Boulevard., Suite 390, Houston, TX 77004, USA

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:709  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-709

Published: 2 August 2013



Young African American girls have a high risk of obesity. Online behavior change programs promoting healthy diet and physical activity are convenient and may be effective for reducing disparities related to obesity. This report presents the protocol guiding the design and evaluation of a culturally and developmental appropriate online obesity prevention program for young African American girls.


The Butterfly Girls and the Quest for Founder’s Rock is an 8-episode online program delivered as an animated, interactive comic. The program promotes healthy diet and physical activity and is specifically designed for 8–10 year old African American girls. Girls, parents, and community representatives provided formative feedback on cultural relevance and developmental appropriateness. A three-group (treatment, comparison, wait-list control) randomized design (n = 390 parent/child dyads) is employed, with child as the unit of assignment. Change in body mass index is the primary outcome; change in fruit and vegetable consumption, water, and physical activity are secondary outcomes. Data collection occurs at baseline, approximately 3 months after baseline (i.e., completion of the online program), and approximately three months later (i.e., maintenance assessment). Two dietary recalls are collected at each data collection period by trained interviewers using the Nutrient Data System for Research (NDSR 2012) system. Physical activity is objectively measured by seven days of accelerometry. Psychosocial and process data are also collected. Girls in the treatment and comparison groups will be interviewed at post 1 to obtain information on personal reactions to the program.


This research will develop and evaluate the efficacy of an online program for reducing obesity risk among girls at risk of obesity and related diseases. Online programs offer the potential for wide dissemination, thus reducing disparities related to obesity.

Trial Registration


Internet; Intervention; Obesity prevention; Physical activity; Child; African American; Diet; Culture