Grow2Gether: A Peer-Based Social Media Intervention for Mothers to Prevent Obesity from Infancy

Statement of Problem

Early childhood obesity is a serious and growing problem in the U.S., with nearly 10% of infants having an elevated weight for length.  The risk of early childhood obesity increases with maternal obesity, Black/African-American race, and poverty.  Being overweight in infancy is associated with a host of adult ailments including future obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and depression.  Therefore, early childhood is a critical period for establishing healthy behaviors that prevent obesity.

The most effective interventions to prevent obesity are based in the home or community and begin before birth.  However, the success of existing interventions is limited by the high cost of visiting families at home, difficulties implementing new programs in doctors’ offices, and obstacles to families attending in-person programs.  Additionally, few interventions are designed for the low-income, high-risk infants who need them most.

PolicyLab researchers have developed an innovative peer group model called Grow2Gether for early childhood obesity prevention for families whose children are at high risk of developing obesity.  The group takes advantage of high rates of smartphone ownership (77%) among low-income, young adults.

Grow2Gether recruits low-income mothers living with obesity or who are overweight to participate in a private Facebook group with 8-12 peers.  Participation begins during pregnancy.  A psychologist mentors the group with expertise in pediatric obesity, early childhood development, and health promotion.  Group activities for the mothers are designed to reframe beliefs about healthy infant weight and promote confidence in adopting behaviors that prevent obesity. 

Grow2Gether is not only easily accessible for new mothers, it is also scalable. The intervention encourages peer support, builds community, and reinforces positive changes in beliefs and practices.

The research team is currently conducting a randomized controlled trial of this intervention with 87 mothers and their infants.  Our long-term goal is to develop these virtual groups as an innovative, convenient, and cost effective way to help prevent illness and better manage chronic childhood conditions for vulnerable populations.

Suggested Citation

The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, PolicyLab. Grow2Gether: A Peer-Based Social Media Intervention for Mothers to Prevent Obesity from Infancy [Online]. Available at: http://www.policylab.chop.edu [Accessed: plug in date accessed here].