Reducing Childhood Obesity by Improving Parental Perception of Child Weight Status in a Rural Medical Center

Robinson, Christy, Nursing Practice - School of Nursing, University of Virginia
Boitnott, Amy, School of Nursing, University of Virginia

The prevalence of obesity in children and adolescents has increased dramatically in the past 40 years. This escalating crisis has reached epidemic proportions as almost one third of the children are considered overweight or obese in the United States. It is especially concerning that obesity is identified in preschoolers which can be predictive of obesity that extends into adolescence and adulthood. Prior research suggests that many parents were unable to recognize their children as being overweight or obese with some parents perceiving their overweight/obese child as being of normal weight or even underweight. Parents must be able to identify their child’s weight status accurately in order to understand the significant health risks associated with obesity. The purpose of this study was to determine if a color coded visual aid intervention used during a primary care appointment improved the accuracy of parental perception of their child’s actual Body Mass Index (BMI) status. A body habitus silhouette chart was used to measure parent’s perception of their child’s body size in a rural medical center. The sample comprised of 51 parents of children ages 3-10, who met criteria for being overweight or obese. Parents were asked to pick which figure most resembled their child on the body habitus silhouette chart. Upon completion of the chart parents were counseled on their child’s actual weight status using a color coded BMI chart. All of the parents in the study were incorrect in their perception of their child’s BMI status at baseline by underestimating their child’s BMI. Fifteen (29%) participants had both baseline and 1 month data and had an improvement in their perceived BMI at 1 month. The differences between perceived and actual BMI were less at 1 month than at baseline. There was a significant difference (p = 0.01) between the actual and perceived BMI at baseline (median 36.6, interquartile range 23.7- 43.4) and 1 month (median 13.9, interquartile range 12.1–15.0) in matched participants. The results of this study will be used to develop interventions for parents that begin at an early age and will have an impact on preventing childhood obesity.

DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice)
body mass index, childhood obesity, parent perception
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