Public Health Nutrition


Developing a nutrition intervention in children's centres: exploring views of parents in rural/urban settings in the UK

Heather R Ohlya1, Arabella Haytera2, Clare Pettingera3, Hynek Pikharta2, Richard G Watta2 and Gail A Reesa1 c1

a1 School of Biomedical and Biological Sciences, University of Plymouth, Drake Circus, Plymouth PL4 8AA, UK

a2 Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, London, UK

a3 School of Health Professions, University of Plymouth, Plymouth, UK


Objective The present study explored parents’ requirements for healthy eating support prior to the development of a tailored intervention.

Design A cross-sectional study of parents attending children's centres.

Setting Children's centres in Cornwall (rural south-west England) and Islington (urban London borough).

Subjects A total of 261 parents (94·2 % female) of pre-school children (aged 2–5 years) completed a questionnaire on factors influencing food choice, and preferences for and views on healthy eating support.

Results Parents reported that health, taste, freshness and quality were the most important factors influencing their food choices for their pre-school children. The importance of individual factors varied according to level of educational attainment. Over a third (38 %) of parents said they wanted more advice on healthy eating for children. Less educated parents showed the greatest interest in learning more about several aspects: what a ‘healthy diet’ means, how to prepare and cook healthy food, how to understand food labels, budgeting for food, examples of healthy food and snacks for children, appropriate portion sizes for children and ways to encourage children to eat well.

Conclusions There was demand for healthy eating support among parents of pre-school children, especially those who are less educated, in one rural and one urban area of England.

(Received December 16 2011)

(Revised June 14 2012)

(Accepted July 17 2012)

(Online publication August 31 2012)


  • Nutrition;
  • Intervention;
  • Children;
  • Parents


c1 Corresponding author: Email