Asthma can be particularly problematic for children who are overweight, leading to increased medication use, more emergency room visits and lower quality of life compared with their peers with asthma who are not overweight. University of Florida Health researchers are now studying whether weight loss can improve lung function and help control asthma.
A new UF pilot study funded by the American Lung Association aims to develop and test a behavioral weight-management program for young children who have asthma and are overweight or obese. It is the first study to tailor weight-management strategies to children with asthma and their parents. There is no cost to families to participate.
“There has been a concurrent rise in the prevalence of both asthma and childhood obesity,” said lead investigator David Fedele, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the department of clinical and health psychology at the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions. “They are both inflammatory diseases and it is well-established that they are interrelated.”
Children and parents in the new study, called UF Childhood Health and Asthma Management Program, or CHAMP, will participate in group sessions that feature games to teach children about growing healthy and strong, samples of tasty and nutritious foods, and tips for preventing and coping with asthma symptoms. Researchers also will address barriers to weight management in children with asthma, such as the perception that exercise may aggravate asthma symptoms.
“Physical activity is a great thing for all children, especially those with asthma,” Fedele said. “If a child’s asthma is controlled, they should be able to engage in physical activity similar to that of their friends. Exercise improves or sustains overall health and is linked to fewer asthma symptoms.”
CHAMP is available to families in the Alachua County area with children between the ages of 6 and 12 who have asthma and are at the higher end of the weight spectrum for their height. Over a four-month period, families will participate in 12 group-based sessions with separate but simultaneous meetings for children and parents, as well as four individual family sessions. Sessions will be held at UF Health Shands Hospital and families will receive reimbursement for travel costs to each meeting and for participation. Families will be assigned to one of two groups designed to promote healthy habits.
Family members who are interested in signing up for the program or have questions should call the CHAMP office at 352-273-5124. Team members will help parents determine their family’s eligibility.