Low Awareness of Early Childhood Obesity in Ireland

Low Awareness Early Childhood Obesity Ireland

NUI Galway Study Finds Low Awareness of Early Childhood Obesity in Ireland

  • Missed opportunities for healthcare professionals to improve knowledge exchange and early interventions to assist parents recognise a healthy weight for their children
  • Childhood obesity is disproportionately characteristic of low-income families
  • Improvements needed in information provided between healthcare professionals and mums regarding infant feeding, healthy weight and obesity in preschool aged children

A study carried out by Dr Michelle Queally from the J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics at NUI Galway and colleagues from the Health Research Board funded project CHErIsH (Choosing Heathy Eating for Infant Health), have reported that mothers are unable to accurately identify their child’s overweight/obesity status at age three and five in Ireland. The study was recently published in the International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity.

Dr Queally notes that a mother’s recognition of their child being overweight and obese during early childhood is one of the key determinants in achieving a healthy weight status in children. The study highlights the need for increased support in Ireland to help improve a mothers understanding of what defines a healthy body size in preschool aged children. Mothers who are unable to accurately identify their child being overweight/ obese at three years old are likely to do so again when the child is five years old.

Low Awareness Early Childhood Obesity Ireland

Results from the study found that 22% of mothers failed to accurately identify their child to be overweight or obese at age three. This inaccuracy decreased to 18% when the child was aged five. A mother’s inaccurate identification of their child’s overweight/obesity status was more likely to occur if the child was a girl, had a higher birth weight and if the mother was obese or working. Other factors affecting the odds of misperceiving a child’s weight included gestation age, income and urban living.

Key findings from the study:
• Missed opportunities for healthcare professionals to improve knowledge exchange and early interventions to assist parents in recognising a healthy weight for their children.
• Improvements in knowledge transfer to facilitate healthcare professionals to ensure mothers have information and an accurate understanding of infant feeding, and healthy weight and obesity in their preschool aged children.
• Educational interventions to inform mothers of healthy weight range during the child’s early years might lead to more accurate weight perceptions as the child gets older.
• Childhood obesity is disproportionately characteristic of low-income families. Developing tailored intervention programmes for the formative pre-school cohort could prove to be a beneficial strategy to change attitudes and promote awareness of obesity in children within lower socioeconomic groups.
• Utilising specific channels for health‐related communications allows key messages to reach families who stand to benefit most from the information, and also improves the efficiency with which public funds for health communications are spent.

The NUI Galway study used data from the longitudinal ‘Growing Up in Ireland’ study, which is a nationally representative face-to-face survey of children living in Ireland, which aims to inform policy in relation to children, young people and families. Data was collected from almost 10,000 families of children aged three years and over 9,000 families of children aged five years.

For the analysis of this study, data relating to child and mother characteristics in healthcare access and household characteristics, such as income and if they lived in an urban or rural area, were extracted. For the child, data extracted included gender, child birth weight, gestation age, whether or not the child was breastfed, whether the child had siblings and the child’s health, as reported by the mother. For the mother, data extracted included education, obesity status, age, self-reported health, employment status, whether or not the mother was born in Ireland and marital status.

To read the full study in International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity, visit:https://ijbnpa.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12966-018-0688-y


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