All posts by Michelle Vogel

A Qualitative Study Exploring Healthy Eating and Physical Activity in Families with Young Children

Authors: Rowena Merritt, Michelle Vogel, Patrick Ladbury

Abstract

Overweight and obesity in childhood affects health long-term. Parent attitudes and behaviours play major roles in their child’s weight despite no consensus on appropriate and effective family-focused interventions to successfully tackle childhood obesity. This research aims to explore caregiver perceptions, attitudes, and behaviours around children’s diet, exercise, and weight in East Sussex. In-depth qualitative interviews with mothers, fathers, and grandparents of children aged 2-11 years were conducted. Caregivers wanted to influence their children’s diet and exercise habits but were unable due to perceived and actual barriers. Barriers included cost, time, and a lack of control over food choices as children aged. Moreover, caregivers admitted to providing unhealthy sweets and snacks to please their children. While caregivers openly discussed their own weight concerns, they were less likely to discuss concerns about their children’s or grandchildren’s weight. When asked about the ideal amount of exercise, caregivers found it easy to describe a regime for adults but did not know the ideal amount of exercise for children. Many caregivers found it difficult to quantify exercise when it came to their children because children naturally played in ways that could be considered exercise. Family-based interventions should begin in early childhood and promote walking and dog-walking as forms of exercise, parental education on childhood exercise guidelines, and preparing and eating healthy home-cooked meals in the home.

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