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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Economic and other barriers to adopting recommendations to prevent childhood obesity: results of a focus group study with parents

Kendrin R Sonneville12*, Nancy La Pelle3, Elsie M Taveras245, Matthew W Gillman1245 and Lisa A Prosser6

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA

2 Children's Hospital, Boston, Boston, MA, USA

3 Preventive and Behavioral Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA, USA

4 Obesity Prevention Program, Department of Population Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Boston, MA, USA

5 Division of General Pediatrics, Children's Hospital Boston, Boston, MA, USA

6 Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit, Division of General Pediatrics, University of Michigan Health System, Ann Arbor, MI, USA

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BMC Pediatrics 2009, 9:81  doi:10.1186/1471-2431-9-81

Published: 21 December 2009

Abstract

Background

Parents are integral to the implementation of obesity prevention and management recommendations for children. Exploration of barriers to and facilitators of parental decisions to adopt obesity prevention recommendations will inform future efforts to reduce childhood obesity.

Methods

We conducted 4 focus groups (2 English, 2 Spanish) among a total of 19 parents of overweight (BMI ≥ 85th percentile) children aged 5-17 years. The main discussion focused on 7 common obesity prevention recommendations: reducing television (TV) watching, removing TV from child's bedroom, increasing physically active games, participating in community or school-based athletics, walking to school, walking more in general, and eating less fast food. Parents were asked to discuss what factors would make each recommendation more difficult (barriers) or easier (facilitators) to follow. Participants were also asked about the relative importance of economic (time and dollar costs/savings) barriers and facilitators if these were not brought into the discussion unprompted.

Results

Parents identified many barriers but few facilitators to adopting obesity prevention recommendations for their children. Members of all groups identified economic barriers (time and dollar costs) among a variety of pertinent barriers, although the discussion of dollar costs often required prompting. Parents cited other barriers including child preference, difficulty with changing habits, lack of information, lack of transportation, difficulty with monitoring child behavior, need for assistance from family members, parity with other family members, and neighborhood walking safety. Facilitators identified included access to physical activity programs, availability of alternatives to fast food and TV which are acceptable to the child, enlisting outside support, dietary information, involving the child, setting limits, making behavior changes gradually, and parental change in shopping behaviors and own eating behaviors.

Conclusions

Parents identify numerous barriers to adopting obesity prevention recommendations, most notably child and family preferences and resistance to change, but also economic barriers. Intervention programs should consider the context of family priorities and how to overcome barriers and make use of relevant facilitators during program development.