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Virtual Reality Technology as a Treatment for Overweight Children with NAFLD

Childhood obesity and its consequences is a significant public health problem and affects an estimated 16.9% of children aged 2-19 years in the United States today. While there is clear evidence supporting the types of changes that need to occur to effectively treat obesity related disease such as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in children (decreased sugar sweetened beverages, increased vegetables and fruit consumption, increased vigorous physical activity to name a few), making these changes often conflicts with the parental desire to keep their child temporarily happy with the resources available. Thus, effective, clinically relevant tools are needed to provide ongoing support, engagement, and positive peer pressure surrounding the desired nutrition and activity behavior changes. Using virtual reality (VR) technologies for so-called causal games is an area of research that might prove useful in bridging the gap between simply providing information and achieving sustainable behavior change. The NIH recently released a request for applications (RFA) for VR technologies addressing obesity education. The goal of this pilot project is to use our multidisciplinary collaborative approach to refine the research questions, technical approach, VR platforms, research outcomes, and achieve the pilot data necessary for a successful R01 application to this RFA.

Investigators: Miriam Vos (Emory University School of Medicine), Michael Shane Owens (Georgia Institute of Technology) and Leanne West (Georgia Institute of Technology)

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