An App-Based Parenting Program to Promote Healthy Energy Balance-Related Parenting Practices to Prevent Childhood Obesity: Protocol Using the Intervention Mapping Framework

Levie T Karssen*, Jacqueline M Vink, Carolina de Weerth, Roel C J Hermans, Carina P M de Kort, Stef Pj Kremers, Emilie L M Ruiter, Junilla K Larsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND: The family environment plays an important role in the development of children's energy balance-related behaviors. As a result, parents' energy balance-related parenting practices are important targets of preventive childhood obesity programs. Families with a lower socioeconomic position (SEP) may benefit from participating in such programs but are generally less well reached than families with a higher SEP.

OBJECTIVE: This paper describes the application of the Intervention Mapping Protocol (IMP) for the development of an app-based preventive intervention program to promote healthy energy balance-related parenting practices among parents of children (aged 0-4 years) with a lower SEP.

METHODS: The 6 steps of the IMP were used as a theory- and evidence-based framework to guide the development of an app-based preventive intervention program.

RESULTS: In step 1, behavioral outcomes for the app-based program (ie, children have a healthy dietary intake, sufficient sleep, and restricted screen time and sufficient physical activity) and sociocognitive (ie, knowledge, attitudes, and self-efficacy) and automatic (ie, habitual behaviors) determinants of energy balance-related parenting were identified through a needs assessment. In step 2, the behavioral outcomes were translated into performance objectives. To influence these objectives, in step 3, theory-based intervention methods were selected for each of the determinants. In step 4, the knowledge derived from the previous steps allowed for the development of the app-based program Samen Happie! through a process of continuous cocreation with parents and health professionals. In step 5, community health services were identified as potential adopters for the app. Finally, in step 6, 2 randomized controlled trials were designed to evaluate the process and effects of the app among Dutch parents of infants (trial 1) and preschoolers (trial 2). These trials were completed in November 2019 (trial 1) and February 2020 (trial 2).

CONCLUSIONS: The IMP allowed for the effective development of the app-based parenting program Samen Happie! to promote healthy energy balance-related parenting practices among parents of infants and preschoolers. Through the integration of theory, empirical evidence, and data from the target population, as well as the process of continued cocreation, the program specifically addresses parents with a lower SEP. This increases the potential of the program to prevent the development of obesity in early childhood among families with a lower SEP.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: Netherlands Trial Register NL6727,; Netherlands Trial Register NL7371,

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere24802
Number of pages20
JournalJMIR Formative Research
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 14 May 2021

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