OBJECTIVES:

To determine the effect of an intervention to improve emotional and behavioral self-regulation in combination with an obesity-prevention program on the prevalence of obesity and obesity-related behaviors in preschoolers.

METHODS:

This was a cluster-randomized intervention trial in Head Start (HS) classrooms conducted in each of 4 academic years from 2011 to 2015. Participants (697 children; 49% boys; mean age: 4.1 ± 0.5 years; 48% white, 30% African American, 12% Hispanic) were randomly assigned by classroom to 1 of 3 intervention arms: (1) HS + Preschool Obesity Prevention Series (POPS) + Incredible Years Series (IYS) (HS enhanced by the POPS [program targeting evidence-based obesity-prevention behaviors] and the IYS [program to improve children’s self-regulation]), (2) HS+POPS, or (3) HS. Primary outcomes were changes in prevalence of obesity, overweight/obesity, BMI z score, and teacher-reported child emotional and behavioral self-regulation; secondary outcomes were dietary intake, outdoor play, screen time, and parent nutrition knowledge and nutrition self-efficacy.

RESULTS:

HS+POPS+IYS improved teacher-reported self-regulation compared with HS+POPS (P < .001) and HS (P < .001), but there was no effect on the prevalence of obesity (16.4% preintervention to 14.3% postintervention in HS+POPS+IYS versus 17.3% to 14.4% in HS+POPS [P = .54] versus 12.2% to 13.0% in HS [P = .33]). There was no effect of HS+POPS compared with HS alone (P = .16). There was no effect on other outcomes except for sugar-sweetened beverage intake (HS+POPS+IYS resulted in a greater decline than HS; P = .005).

CONCLUSIONS:

An intervention for parents and children to improve HS preschoolers’ emotional and behavioral self-regulation in combination with an obesity-prevention curriculum did not reduce obesity prevalence or most obesity-related behaviors.

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