Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Health Promotion, Education and Behavior


The Norman J. Arnold School of Public Health

First Advisor

Gabrielle Turner-McGrievy



Although rates of pediatric and adult obesity remain high in the U.S., finding scalable and engaging ways to disseminate obesity prevention and treatment for families has been challenging. The purpose of the Motivating Families with Interactive Technology (mFIT) study was to test the feasibility, acceptability, and effectiveness of two remotely-delivered family-based health promotion programs for improvements physical activity (PA), healthy eating, and parent-child communication and relationship quality.


Parent-child (child age 9-12 years) dyads enrolled in a 12-week mobile intervention to increase physical activity and healthy eating, which included weekly email newsletters and the use of pedometers. Dyads were randomly assigned to one of two family-based programs, one of which utilized a mobile website and program materials that emphasized the importance of family interactions for health behavior changes. At baseline and 12 weeks, height and weight were measured by research staff, and participants completed web-based questionnaires about their dietary intake, family dynamics (e.g., parent-child communication), and experiences in the study.


Dyads (n=33) were randomized (parents: 43+/-6 years, 88% female, 70% white, BMI 31.1+/-8.3 kg/m2; children: 11+/-1 years, 64% female, 67% white, BMI 77.6+/-27.8 percentile) and 31 (93.9%) provided complete follow-up data. Overall, there were no significant between-group differences in PA or dietary outcomes, but families significantly increased their average daily steps and servings of fruit during the intervention (marginally significant decrease in sugar-sweetened beverages) and had excellent adherence to self-monitoring protocols. Family functioning indicators were all high at baseline and most did not change significantly over time; none of the family dynamics variables were significant predictors of changes in average daily steps. Almost all parents (97%) and children (86%) said that they would recommend the mFIT program to a friend.


Dyads in the present study had high scores on family functioning variables at baseline, from both parent and child perspectives. Further research is needed to develop domain-specific measures of family dynamics, as well as to test familybased research with samples of families with more diverse baseline scores on family dynamics variables. Overall, the mFIT program showed excellent feasibility and acceptability as a low-cost, remotely delivered family intervention for physical activity and healthy eating promotion, and could serve as a dissemination model for similar public health interventions.


© 2016, Danielle E. Schoffman