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Anna Ek

Anna Ek

Researcher

About me

My research has mainly focused on early interventions to prevent or treat obesity early in life. My interest in obesity in children started already during my undergraduate studies at Uppsala University. An in-depth knowledge and understanding of the complexity of obesity has subsequently been built up during 15 years of work experience in both clinical and research settings.

Research description

The More and Less (ML) study started in 2011, which I conducted together with PI Paulina Nowicka, my main supervisor, during my PhD studies 2012-2016. In the ML study, we wanted to assess the effects of early treatment of obesity. In the study, we compared the standard treatment offered at out-patient pediatric clinics in Stockholm County with a structured parent support program focusing on evidence-based parenting practices, such as encouragement and limit setting strategies. The study included 177 families with children aged 4-6 years with obesity. The families were referred from the child health care throughout Stockholm County. A four-year follow-up of the study is ongoing. Information about ML is available at www.ki.se/merochmindre.

Children's eating behaviour and parents' child feeding practices are of great interest when studying obesity. I have validated two instruments on this subject that we use in the ML study: The Child Eating Behaviour Questionnaire, which measures children's eating behaviour (Ek et al, IJBNPA 2015) and the Lifestyle Behaviour Checklist, which measures how parents experience their child's obesity related behaviours and how confident they are to handle the behaviours (Ek et al, PLOS One 2016). Within ML, we continue to assess children’s and parents’ behaviours and their importance for healthy habits and a healthy weight development.

Finding methods that support healthy habits and at the same time are easy and feasible to use is key for public health and obesity interventions. During my postdoctoral fellowship in Marie Löf’s group, Department of Biosciences and Nutrition (BioNut), I was the project coordinator for the The Smart City Active Mobile Phone Intervention (SCAMPI). In SCAMPI we developed a mobile application aiming to motivate adults to use active transport as a way to increase their physical activity. A total of 254 adults from Stockholm County participated for 6 months. We are now evaluating the results of SCAMPI.

The ML parent program is now being implemented in three countries as a part of the EU-funded project Science and Technology in childhood Obesity Policy (STOP). Through a randomized controlled trial, The ML Europe study, we will assess early weight management in families (n=300) with children 2-6 years old with overweight and obesity in Sweden, Romania and Spain. Half of the families will be offered standard care for weight management in the children. The other half of the families will instead participate in the ML parent support program. After the parent program, the families get access to a mobile application, the MINISTOP app, developed by Marie Löf, to see if a mobile application can extend the effect of the lifestyle changes the families implemented during the parent program. As part of the study we will conduct interviews with parents and care givers to get their perspective of the facilitators and barriers of weight management in young children from referral to follow-up. I am the project coordinator of ML Europe.

Education

BSc in dietetics, Department of food studies, nutrition and dietetics, Uppsala University

RESEARCH EDUCATION

2016 PhD in paediatrics, Karolinska Institutet, CLINTEC, Division of paediatrics

Main supervisor: Paulina Nowicka

Thesis: Early obesity: family-based risk factors and treatment interventions.

POSTDOCTORAL FELLOWSHIP

2016-2019 Karolinska Institutet, CLINTEC, Division of paediatrics

Supervisor: Paulina Nowicka

2016-2018 Karolinska Institutet, BioNut

Supervisor: Marie Löf

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