Primary Health Care Research & Development


Childrens’ and parents’ views and experiences of attending a childhood obesity clinic: a qualitative study

Sarah E. Owena1 c1, Deborah J. Sharpa1, Julian P. Shielda2a3 and Katrina M. Turnera1

a1 Academic Unit of Primary Health Care, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK

a2 Clinical Sciences at North Bristol, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK

a3 Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, Bristol, UK


Aim To explore childrens’ and parents’ views and experiences of attending a hospital-based childhood obesity clinic, in order to inform the development of services in primary care.

Background The prevalence of childhood obesity in the UK is rising. Previous literature identifies the need for long-term, regular follow-up during weight management programmes, and acknowledges the difficulties families face when making lifestyle changes. Primary care has been identified as a possible clinical setting that can meet these needs. However, there is a paucity of evidence to guide the development of such services.

Method A qualitative interview study was undertaken in a hospital-based childhood obesity clinic in Bristol, England. Short in-depth interviews were held with 21 parents and 11 children attending this clinic. Interviewees were purposefully sampled to ensure interviews were held covering participants of varying age, gender and success in reducing their BMI. The interviews were audiotaped, fully transcribed and analysed thematically.

Findings Families valued the multidisciplinary team approach used in the clinic in terms of the education and support it offered. They enjoyed regular follow-up, reporting that this provided ongoing support and motivation. Families whose children succeeded in BMI reduction appeared more resourceful and tended to embrace ideas for making lifestyle changes. Unsuccessful families, however, found it harder to alter their lifestyle and often met barriers to change. The authors conclude that community obesity clinics will need to provide a multidisciplinary service offering regular support and individualized exercise and dietary advice whilst attempting to address barriers to change.

(Received October 17 2008)

(Accepted May 10 2009)

Key words

  • childhood obesity;
  • obesity management;
  • primary health care;
  • qualitative research


c1 Correspondence to: Sarah E. Owen, Academic Unit of Primary Health Care, University of Bristol, 25 Belgrave Road, Bristol, BS8 2AA, UK. Email: