Starting Early Program: Primary Care–Based Childhood Obesity Prevention Beginning in Pregnancy
Researchers in NYU Langone’s Division of General Pediatrics have developed the Starting Early Program for families to prevent obesity and promote healthy growth from pregnancy through the first five years of life. The program supports optimal feeding and lifestyle patterns by working with families at the primary care visits that occur during pregnancy and infancy. The program helps identify barriers and build the skills needed for healthy behaviors. The main components are nutrition and parenting support groups and individual sessions with a nutritionist who is a trained lactation counselor and has maternal and child health experience.
With funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Mary J. Messito, MD; Rachel S. Gross MD, MS; and their team are conducting a randomized controlled trial of the Starting Early Program to help determine whether mother–infant pairs who receive the intervention will have reduced risk of obesity and healthier eating and lifestyle patterns than those receiving standard prenatal and pediatric primary care.
The initial Starting Early Program began in the third trimester of pregnancy and continued until the children were 3 years old. In 2017, the USDA renewed an expansion of the program to continue to follow the child participants through age 5, and develop program sessions for preschool-aged children and a prenatal program for pregnant women beginning in the first trimester of pregnancy.