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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Barriers to successful recruitment of parents of overweight children for an obesity prevention intervention: a qualitative study among youth health care professionals

Sanne MPL Gerards1*, Pieter C Dagnelie23, Maria WJ Jansen34, Nanne K De Vries13 and Stef PJ Kremers1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Health Promotion, and NUTRIM School for Nutrition, Toxicology and Metabolism, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands

2 Department of Epidemiology, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands

3 School of Public Health and Primary Care (Caphri), Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands

4 South Limburg Municipal Health Services, Geleen, The Netherlands

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BMC Family Practice 2012, 13:37  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-13-37

Published: 16 May 2012



The recruitment of participants for childhood overweight and obesity prevention interventions can be challenging. The goal of this study was to identify barriers that Dutch youth health care (YHC) professionals perceive when referring parents of overweight children to an obesity prevention intervention.


Sixteen YHC professionals (nurses, physicians and management staff) from eleven child health clinics participated in semi-structured interviews. An intervention implementation model was used as the framework for conducting, analyzing and interpreting the interviews.


All YHC professionals were concerned about childhood obesity and perceived prevention of overweight and obesity as an important task of the YHC organization. In terms of frequency and perceived impact, the most important impeding factors for referring parents of overweight children to an intervention were denial of the overweight problem by parents and their resistance towards discussing weight issues. A few YHC professionals indicated that their communication skills in discussing weight issues could be improved, and some professionals mentioned that they had low self-efficacy in raising this topic.


We consider it important that YHC professionals receive more training to increase their self-efficacy and skills in motivating parents of overweight children to participate in obesity prevention interventions. Furthermore, parental awareness towards their child’s overweight should be addressed in future studies.