Childhood obesity is best raised with grandparents and fathers, NZ research shows

by Freya Lucas

February 19, 2019

New Zealand researchers tasked with addressing the challenge of childhood obesity, as part of the Better Start program have discovered that, while nearly two thirds of parents would like to be made aware that their child was at risk for childhood obesity, they would feel upset or worried by the news, and that grandparents and male respondents were statistically the most likely to be receptive to the information.

 

Researchers also found that, with the exception of Asian parents, who were more likely to want to hear obesity information, there was no differences in acceptance according to socioeconomic status, level of education, or ethnicity.

 

The Better Start Model Acceptance study is said to be the first of its kind to explore the acceptability of early childhood obesity prediction in a multi-ethnic cohort of parents, caregivers and grandparents of children aged five and under in New Zealand.

 

Researchers used an anonymous online questionnaire, which was distributed nationwide, and garnered a total of 1,934 responses from parents, caregivers, and grandparents of children five and under.

 

Key researchers Professor Rachael Taylor, Director of the Edgar Diabetes and Obesity Research Centre at the University of Otago; Senior Research Fellow Jose Derraik; and, PhD student Eadaoin Butler described the findings as fascinating.

 

“We were intrigued to see that there were no differences in acceptability of the information according to socioeconomic status, education or ethnicity (with the exception of the Asian respondents who were more accepting), with the majority of all groups wanting to know this information if it was available,” Ms Taylor said.

 

Parents responding to the survey were most interested in receiving information when their child commenced eating solids, and were “very clear that they would like more support around nutrition than is currently provided,”  she added.

 

Researchers said early prevention of childhood obesity was important for several reasons, saying that treatment of obesity is “notoriously difficult” and that rapid weight gain in infancy and early childhood are strong predictors of later obesity. Children in the early years were more malleable, researchers said, providing opportunity to avoid behaviours which promote weight gain to be avoided before they become entrenched.

 

“For parents of young children, excess weight is simply not seen as an issue – unless it gets to the point where it is impeding their health or leading to bullying or other adverse effects” Ms Taylor said, adding that whilst this was understandable, the majority of children who become heavier as children will retain the weight into adolescence and later life.

 

Overall, researchers said, the Model Acceptance study showed respondents were generally accepting of childhood obesity prediction. “If such models were delivered in a sensitive and empathetic manner by healthcare professionals they could be an acceptable tool to assist interventions to prevent later childhood obesity,”

 

More information on the Better Start project can be found here, with information about the Healthy Weight program available here.

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