Public Health Nutrition

Research Article

Parental concerns about childhood obesity and the strategies employed to prevent unhealthy weight gain in children

David Crawforda1 c1, Anna Timperioa1, Amanda Telforda2 and Jo Salmona1

a1 Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research, School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University, 221 Burwood Highway, Burwood, Victoria 3125, Australia

a2 Division of Exercise Sciences, School of Medical Sciences, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia

Abstract

Objectives To describe parental concerns about their child's weight, to determine the proportion of parents taking preventive action to avoid obesity in their children and the predictors of taking preventive action, and to describe the strategies adopted by parents.

Design A cross-sectional survey was conducted. Children's heights and weights were measured, and parents completed a questionnaire that included measures of their own weight status, perceptions of their child's weight, concerns about their child's current weight and future weight as an adolescent and adult, and the strategies used to prevent obesity.

Setting The study was conducted in Melbourne, Australia.

Subjects A total of 291 families of children aged 5–6 years and 919 families of children aged 10–12 years participated.

Results Eighty-nine per cent of parents of overweight 5–6-year-olds and 63% of parents of overweight 10–12-year-olds were unaware their child was overweight. Seventy-one per cent of parents of overweight 5–6-year-olds and 43% of parents of overweight 10–12-year-olds were not concerned about their child's current weight. Although 31% of parents of 5–6-year-olds and 43% of parents of 10–12-year-olds were taking action to prevent unhealthy weight gain in their children, less-educated parents were less likely to do so.

Conclusions Public health programmes are required to raise parental recognition of childhood overweight and of related risk behaviours, and to provide parents with practical strategies to prevent unhealthy weight gain in their children.

(Received June 08 2005)

(Accepted November 21 2005)

Correspondence

c1 *corresponding author: Email dcraw@deakin.edu.au

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