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Temple Awarded 5-year, $3.47 Million NIH Grant to Investigate Evidence-Based Treatment Approach to Prevent Excessive Weight Gain in Pregnancy

News January 07, 2019

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health has awarded a Temple-led research team a 5-year, $3.47 million grant. The team will partner with the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Food and Nutrition program of Philadelphia to investigate an evidence-based treatment approach for the prevention of excessive weight gain in pregnancy among the medically vulnerable women WIC serves.

“This project will be the first of its kind to evaluate a comprehensive obesity treatment program that uses WIC provider counseling and mobile health technology tailored to low-income, racial/ethnic minority pregnant women,” said Sharon J. Herring, MD, MPH, principal investigator on the grant and Associate Professor of Medicine, Obstetrics & Reproductive Sciences and Clinical Sciences at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University.

Low-income women have the highest rates of obesity, but almost no resources to support weight control in pregnancy, noted Herring. “Although Institute of Medicine guidelines for weight gain in pregnancy are clear, without intervention, most women with obesity will exceed recommended gains and incur significant morbidity for themselves and their children.”

This grant will allow the research team to conduct a trial aimed at addressing a gap in the availability of evidence-based treatment approaches to prevent excessive weight in pregnancy among women with obesity.

“Our group has preliminary data supporting the efficacy of digital health platforms for delivering obesity treatment for medically vulnerable, pregnant women,” added Dr. Herring. “However, our relatively inexpensive and potentially scalable approach has not been integrated and tested in real world settings, limiting broad reach and dissemination potential.” To address these limitations, the trial funded by this NIH grant will leverage WIC’s Philadelphia community clinics as sites to test the research group’s obesity treatment approach.

The team will randomize 438 African American and Hispanic Philadelphia County WIC participants with obesity in early pregnancy to one of two treatment groups. The first group will receive standard WIC care. The second group will receive focused obesity treatment, including empirically-supported behavior change goals, regular self-monitoring text messages with automated feedback, tailored skills training materials and counseling from WIC nutritionists.

The primary outcome of the trial will be prevalence of excessive gestational weight gain, but the team will also examine changes in diet and physical activity, health-related quality of life and rates of adverse pregnancy outcomes. In addition, the researchers will evaluate the intervention’s dissemination potential and cost effectiveness in the WIC setting.

Editor’s Note: Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R01DK115939. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.