To describe the design, feasibility, and acceptability of a theory‐informed obesity and dental caries prevention pilot study, Baby Steps to Health, conducted in an academic dental clinic among a primarily Asian immigrant population.
Baby Steps used self‐determination theory and behavioral motivation strategies for a caregiver/child (6–36 months) nutrition and oral health behavior change intervention implemented in a pediatric dental clinic. Caregivers completed a dietary practice assessment to identify risk behaviors and potential courses of action. With assistance from dental providers, caregiver responses were matched to customized dietary behavioral guidance and a behavior change goal to reinforce caregivers’ autonomous motivation to improve feeding practices. A 1‐month, post‐visit phone caregiver interview assessed adherence to the behavioral goal(s) and solicited qualitative input for further program development.
Fifty caregivers (82 percent Asian) participated in the initial visit, and 46 (92 percent) participated in the follow‐up interview. Reported obesogenic/cariogenic risk behaviors were prevalent: 57 percent of bottle‐fed children consumed non‐water beverages in bottles to aid sleep and 38 percent of parents offered snacks ad libitum. At follow‐up, 93 percent of caregivers who selected goals reported positive behavior change and 91 percent said they would participate in a similar future program.
Tailored guidance delivered in a program that uses self‐determination theory may represent a strategic use of the dental encounter to impart actionable information and motivate health‐related behavior change for families with very young children. Partnerships between dental and nutrition professionals offer opportunities to address key dietary behaviors that may prevent obesity and improve oral health, particularly among at‐risk children.