Healthy Eating Lifestyles Program (HELP)

Brief Description
Currently, one in every three California children is overweight or obese ; the number of overweight children has more than tripled over the past three decades . The magnitude of this epidemic is also reflected in the rising healthcare costs associated with obesity. Led by National Health Foundation a consortium of four hospitals in Southern California collaborated to create and implement a family-focused and community-based pediatric obesity intervention program: Healthy Eating Lifestyles Program (HELP).The curriculum was developed in 2004 by a multidisciplinary group of health professionals, was implemented at each hospital for four years and continues to be implemented at select hospital sites. The program draws upon components of successful research programs and is tailored to be implemented in ethnic and socioeconomic diverse communities. HELP includes medical and behavioral assessments, interactive educational workshops on nutrition and physical activity, telephone follow-ups and opportunities for physical activity and exercise to promote healthy lifestyles. HELP utilizes paraprofessionals (i.e. lay health educators and promatores) to help implement the program and ensure its cultural relevance and appropriateness for communities.

Measured or Anticipated Outcomes
  • Statistically significant decreases in raw body mass index (BMI) scores for participants with younger participants achieving the largest decreases in scores. These outcomes are significant as they are associated with favorable clinical outcomes such as decreased systolic and diastolic blood pressure and total cholesterol to name a few.
  • Nutrition and fitness scores of participants increased by nearly 2 points (equivalent to a 10% increase from baseline scores) indicating improved knowledge and behaviors related to nutrition and healthy habits.

Policy Implications
  • Demonstrate the successful implementation of best practices for reducing childhood obesity in diverse communities, including the use of promatoras or lay-health educators as facilitators of program activities.
  • Wide-spread dissemination of program curriculum through the development of a replication package for use by other hospitals and medical facilities.

Funding for this program was generously provided by the UniHealth Foundation.

Key Partners
The Chronic Disease Management Consortium (CDMC) including California Hospital Medical Center, Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, and Huntington Hospital.

For more information, please contact Mia Arias, Program Director at