Study: “JOIN for ME” Program Effectively Treats Childhood Obesity

  Study: “JOIN for ME” Program Effectively Treats Childhood Obesity

  *Overweight and obese children and teens continued to lose weight and
    improve their health and quality of life one year after participating in
    the program, according to newly published data
  *First study to document long-term benefits from a community-based
    childhood obesity program
  *Outcomes show community-based program can be scaled nationally to meet
    need for accessible and cost-effective childhood obesity treatment

Business Wire

MINNETONKA, Minn. -- October 22, 2013

Research published by the journal Pediatric Obesity (September 2013)
demonstrates that overweight and obese children and teens who participated in
JOIN for ME^SM were able to continue losing excess weight and improving their
health and quality of life one year after the program had ended.

Additionally, JOIN for ME helped reduce the percentage of children who met
criteria for “obesity” or “extreme obesity.” The program also enabled parents
of participating children to achieve small, statistically significant weight

JOIN for ME is a community-based, pediatric-obesity lifestyle-intervention
program developed by UnitedHealth Group’s UnitedHealth Center for Health
Reform & Modernization. The study was conducted in 2012 with the YMCA of the
USA and the YMCA of Greater Providence, R.I.

JOIN for ME engages overweight and obese kids ages six to 17, along with their
parents, in a series of evidence-based learning sessions to achieve healthier
weights through balanced food choices, increased physical activity and

“We developed JOIN for ME to address the need for a cost-effective, scalable
and successful childhood obesity intervention that can be delivered to a much
larger group of families than traditional, hospital-based treatment
interventions that cost several thousand dollars per patient,” said Deneen
Vojta, M.D., a physician executive at UnitedHealth Group and one of the
study’s principal investigators. “This study is the first to document
long-term outcomes in a community-based program developed to help kids reduce
excess weight, and we are pleased that the results show a statistically
significant improvement in weight outcomes among participants.”

“JOIN for ME helps parents connect with their kids to help them live a
healthier lifestyle,” said Donna Cabral, whose family participated in the
program. “It provides parents with the tools to help interact with our kids,
it gives us a support group, and it gives us rewards at the end. It taught us
to not give up, and that we could achieve our goals.”

To view a video about the JOIN for ME program, visit:,AAABbO5pVEE~,O_ZOCiBfLQAjVjjWc498SXGAqlt78A8N&bclid=0&bctid=1989125193001

Study Results

Obese and overweight status is measured using age- and gender-specific Body
Mass Index (BMI) percentiles, which are calculated using a child’s weight and
height. Being overweight is defined as a BMI at or above the 85^th percentile
and lower than the 95^th percentile.^[1] Obesity is defined as a BMI at or
above the 95^th percentile.^[2] More than 90 percent of the children who
participated in JOIN for ME were obese, and almost half were at or above the
99^th percentile.

One year following completion of the JOIN for ME program, 70 percent of the
original 155 program participants maintained, on average, a 3 percent
reduction in excess weight. In addition, the percentage of youth participants
above the 95^th and 99^th percentiles at the end of the program decreased one
year later.

The study also revealed that children and parents reported improvements in
their health and quality of life, and that the participants who attended a
higher number of face-to-face group sessions experienced greater weight loss.
Parents of participants in the study also experienced small, but statistically
significant, reductions in weight.

“The one-year follow-up study shows that participants were able to retain
their weight reduction following completion of the JOIN for ME program,” said
Elissa Jelalian, associate professor of Psychiatry & Human Behavior and
Pediatrics, Brown University. “This is particularly impressive given that the
program was less intensive than those commonly examined in research studies
and delivered through hospital-based programs. Creating scalable treatment
interventions that produce clinically meaningful, longstanding weight loss
reduction is an important next step in fighting childhood obesity.”

How JOIN for ME Works

JOIN for ME is a 12-month program for children ages six to 17 who are
overweight or obese. Children and a parent attend a series of 16 weekly group
sessions at local YMCAs in Providence, and Boys & Girls Clubs, schools or
other community locations across the country. Participants and a caregiver are
introduced to evidence-based tools and strategies, encouraging healthier
habits that lead to lifelong healthier weight.

Families work in a group setting that lends ongoing support and encouragement
to participants. Sessions are led by a trained facilitator and cover topics
such as reducing less healthy foods and drinks, getting and staying active,
managing screen time, improving sleep habits, and understanding the link
between moods and foods. After 16 sessions, kids and parents are encouraged to
attend monthly maintenance sessions for an additional eight months.

JOIN for ME currently is available at the YMCA of Greater Providence in Rhode
Island; Houston, Beaumont, Edinburg, Sugarland and Spring, Texas; Kansas City,
Topeka and Wichita, Kan.; New Orleans, La.; and Pensacola, Fla., with plans to
expand in Georgia, Minnesota, Tennessee and Wisconsin in 2014. Based on these
study results, JOIN for ME is being scaled nationally with community-based
partners through UnitedHealth Group’s Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance

Childhood obesity represents a significant financial cost to families,
communities, employers and the health care system. A study conducted for one
large employer indicated that average per capita health insurance claims costs
were as high as $2,907 in 2008 for an obese child and $10,789 for a child with
type 2 diabetes, which is even higher than the average claims cost for adults
with type 2 diabetes ($8,844). ^ [iii]

To read the article in Pediatric Obesity, go to:

About UnitedHealth Group
UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) is a diversified health and well-being company
dedicated to helping people live healthier lives and making health care work
better. With headquarters in Minnetonka, Minn., UnitedHealth Group offers a
broad spectrum of products and services through two business platforms:
UnitedHealthcare, which provides health care coverage and benefits services;
and Optum, which provides information and technology-enabled health services.
Through its businesses, UnitedHealth Group serves more than 85 million people
worldwide. For more information, visit UnitedHealth Group at

^i Barlow SE and the Expert Committee. Expert committee recommendations
regarding the prevention, assessment, and treatment of child and adolescent
overweight and obesity: summary report. Pediatrics 2007;120 Supplement
December 2007:S164—S192.

^ii IBID

^iii Sepulveda MJ, Tait F, Zimmerman E, Edington D. Impact of childhood
obesity on employers. Health Affairs 2010; 29:513-521.

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