New program for children starting from age 2 aims to nip body image blues in the bud

by Freya Lucas

June 17, 2019

An initiative designed by La Trobe University is aiming to reduce instances of negative body image and unhealthy behaviours in children through working with child health nurses (CHN) and families of children aged between two and six years of age.

 

The program supports parents and guardians by increasing their knowledge around healthy eating attitudes, positive child body image/confidence, physical activity, screens and reducing negative and unhealthy parental feeding practices and language.

 

The Australian first program, known as Confident Body, Confident Child (CBCC), aims to work with parents and children to ensure that children grow up with healthy eating patterns and with a healthy body image. To achieve this, program designers say, children need to be body confident early in life.

 

“We created Confident Body Confident Child to help parents teach their children about healthy eating without negatively impacting on body image. Given how important Child Health Nurses are in teaching parents about feeding children and keeping them physically active, we are very excited about this partnership with the Gold Coast CHN network” La Trobe School of Psychology and Public Health Research Fellow, Dr Laura Hart said.

 

52 Gold Coast based CHN’s have been trained in CBCC as part of the implementation, confidentiality providing weight and eating-related advice to parents in their clinics. Dr Hart has previously indicated that the program may be expanded to include early childhood education and care services, should implementation in the CHN network prove favourable.

 

Allied Health Researcher and Senior Paediatric Dietitian Lyza Norton said that research shows that the foundations for negative body image and unhealthy eating behaviours develop in early childhood, and that parents have the most significant influence on how children learn and develop body attitudes and eating patterns.

 

“Research tells us that by tackling body dissatisfaction and unhealthy eating patterns in children from an early age, we can help prevent associated problems as they grow up, such as low self-esteem, depression, obesity and eating disorders.” Ms Norton said.

 

Feedback from CHNs involved in the trial thus far has indicated that the training is valuable, with one CHN telling researchers “We were given very useful strategies – amazing actually – and feel it’s about time we had this to use at work. It’s really obvious early intervention is critical.”

 

Initial research has shown that 18 months after participating in the CBCC program, parents had reduced negative and unhealthy feeding practices, and significantly increased child body image.

 

At Gold Coast Health, the rise in paediatric eating disorders between 2010 and 2017 has resulted in a seven-fold increase of admissions for eating disorders to the Children’s Inpatient Unit. Broader research shows that 59 per cent of girls aged five to eight choose an ideal figure smaller than their own, and 44 per cent of boys aged eight to 11 “think a lot about being thinner”, making the CBCC work of importance in combating confidence issues early.

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