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Do Parents Accurately Assess Obese Kids’ Health Problems?

Experts often suggest that in order to reduce childhood obesity levels, healthy habits must begin in the home. However, a recent study shows that many parents miss the mark—even when their child is considered clinically obese.

According to the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (doi:10.1016/j.jand.2014.04.029), 31.4% of 202 parents participating in the study said their child’s health was “excellent” or “very good,” even though the child had been referred to an obesity clinic. Twenty-eight percent of parents did not believe their obese child’s weight was a health concern. This information was gathered via questionnaire.

Though many parents didn’t feel their child’s health was at risk, researchers determined that 61% were in the “action” stage of improving home nutrition habits. Forty-one percent of parents reported increasing their child’s physical activity levels. Parents concerned with their own weight appeared less likely to promote healthy lifestyle improvements for their children. The good news is that expert guidance seemed to encourage interest in healthy eating, noted the authors. However, this was not the case for physical activity improvements. To overcome this discrepancy, the authors suggested improving training for healthcare providers so they would be better able to recommend appropriate exercise.

“Training health care providers to address physical activity readiness and be aware of factors influencing dietary and PA readiness may result in more effective conversations with parents and improve behavior change efforts for pediatric weight loss,” the authors explained.

In what ways can fitness professionals help parents encourage positive change among their children? Send your response to [email protected]

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