Office of Epidemiology and Research, Division of Research

Advancing Applied MCH Research

Healthy Weight Research Network (HW-RN) for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Developmental Disabilities (ASD/DD)

Funded Projects Search


Project Number: UA3MC25735
Grantee: University of Massachusetts Medical School
Department/Center: E.K. Shriver Center
Project Date: 7/1/2013
Principal Investigator: Linda G. Bandini

Final Report



  • Perinatal/Infancy (0-12 months)
  • Toddlerhood (13-35 months)
  • Early Childhood (3-5 years)
  • Middle Childhood (6-11 years)
  • Adolescence (12-18 years)
  • Young Adulthood (19-25 years)


PROBLEM: Obesity is a significant problem for children with ASD/DD. Although there has been considerable research in the area of obesity for children in the general population, very little research has focused on children with ASD/DD. GOALS & OBJECTIVES: The overarching goal of the HW-RN is to build research capacity that will accelerate the pace of research, achieved by a consensus-driven research agenda: Goal 1: Develop and maintain a national, interdisciplinary research network that focuses on promoting healthy weight among children with ASD/DD. Objectives: (1) Develop a network governance structure, policies, and procedures; (2) Develop a consensus-driven research agenda informed by researchers, clinicians, family members, educators, self-advocates, and policy makers Goal 2: Develop/implement research protocols to fulfill the HW-RN research agenda. Objectives: (1) Fund two small pilot projects annually for formative and/or preliminary studies in key priority areas; (2) Conduct at least one secondary analysis study annually using existing datasets on prevalence, risk factors, and other relevant correlates of weight status among children with ASD/DD; (3) Collaborate on at least one extramural grant proposal. Goal 3: Disseminate network research findings to diverse audiences. Objectives: (1) Develop a website for the HW-RN; (2) Submit at least two manuscripts to peer reviewed journals annually; (3) Disseminate network research findings in publications, products, and events that are relevant to/written for family members and self-advocates; (4) Present research findings at national conferences and workshops; (5) Disseminate findings to a broad community of consumers via the HW-RN website and various organizations and networks. METHODOLOGY The HW-RN will: (1) conduct research to improve knowledge about the prevalence of overweight/obesity, key risk factors, and obesity-related chronic/secondary health conditions among youth with ASD/DD; (2) engage in formative work on the biopsychosocial barriers to physical activity and healthy eating; (3) conduct efficacy/feasibility studies on interventions designed to prevent/reduce excessive weight among youth with ASD/DD; (4) leverage funding support for research that will fulfill the aims of the HW-RN research agenda; and (5) disseminate findings to broad research, clinical, public health and lay audiences. COORDINATION: The HW-RN will be composed of a national, interdisciplinary team of established researchers with expertise in ASD/DD and/or obesity. An advisory panel of nationally-recognized experts in public health, cultural competence, family-centered care, and self-advocacy will provide input into research agenda and will provide guidance on key issues. EVALUATION: Program outcomes will assessed by: the extent to which the aims of each objective have been met; external reviewers' assessment of the quality of research proposals and publications; and feedback from HW-RN participants, advisors, and community members. ANNOTATION: This project aims to develop, coordinate and implement a research agenda to promote healthy weight in children with ASD/DD via interdisciplinary research.


Listed is descending order by year published.

Must A, Curtin C, Hubbard K, Sikich L, Bedford J, Bandini L. Obesity prevention for children with developmental disabilities. Curr Obes Rep. 2014; 3(2): 156-170.


Autism, Developmental Disabilities, Health Disparities, Nutrition & Diet, Obesity & Weight, Physical Activity, Special Health Care Needs

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