Child- and parent-targeted interventions: The Memphis GEMS pilot study

Bettina M. Beech, Robert C. Klesges, Shiriki K. Kumanyika, David M. Murray, Lisa Klesges, Barbara McClanahan, Deborah Slawson, Cynthia Nunnally, James Rochon, Bonnie McLain-Allen, Jasmine Pree-Cary

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

163 Scopus citations


Objective: To assess the feasibility, acceptability, and outcomes of 2 versions of a culturally relevant, family-based intervention to prevent excess weight gain in pre-adolescent African-American girls. Design: Three-arm, 12-week parallel group randomized controlled pilot trial. Setting: Community centers in Memphis, Tennessee. Participants: Sixty African-American girls, aged 8 to 10 years, with a body mass index (BMI) ≥25th percentile of the CDC growth charts, along with their parents/caregivers. Interventions: The active interventions involved highly interactive weekly group sessions with either girls (child-targeted program) or parents/caregivers (parent-targeted program). Content focused on knowledge and behavior change skills to promote healthy eating and increased physical activity. The comparison intervention focused on global self-esteem. Main Outcome Measures: Given the lack of power and the limited time frame of the pilot study, outcomes were evaluated on the basis of implementation measures and changes in physical activity (accelerometer data), and in consumption of sweetened beverages and water, as estimated from questionnaires. Changes in body mass index, waist circumference, and body composition were also examined. Results: The Memphis GEMS pilot intervention met all recruitment, retention, implementation, and participation goals, and was given high ratings by both participants and interventionists. With respect to the comparison intervention, girls in both the child-targeted and parent-targeted interventions demonstrated a trend toward reduced body mass index and waist circumference. In addition, girls in the active intervention groups reduced their consumption of sweetened beverages by 34%, increased their level of moderate-to-vigorous activity by 12%, and increased their servings of water by 1.5%. Conclusions: The findings from this pilot study demonstrated the feasibility, perceived acceptability, and efficacy of culturally relevant, obesity prevention interventions for pre-adolescent African -American girls and their parents/caregivers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S1-40-S1-53
JournalEthnicity and Disease
Issue number1 SUPPL. 1
StatePublished - Dec 2003


  • African-American families
  • African-American girls
  • Behavioral intervention
  • Nutrition
  • Obesity
  • Physical activity
  • Prevention
  • Weight gain


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