Master's Project Title:

Preventing Childhood Obesity through Improved Parental Perception of Child Weight Status

MCH Student:

Kari Lief, CHES, Harsohena Kaur, MD, Meg Kersey, MD, and Diana Cutts, MD

Date of Defense:

July 16, 2009


Objectives: There is a consensus that prevention and treatment of childhood obesity should involve family and pediatricians; however, the accuracy of the guardian’s perception of the child’s weight has received little attention. This study examined parents’ and/or guardians’ recognition of obesity in their children and the effectiveness of educational handouts given at routine doctor visits.

Methods: We recruited parents/guardians of children ages two to five years and English speaking who came into the Department of Pediatrics at Hennepin County Medical Center. At the time of the visit, medical staff measured and calculated the child’s BMI percentile. Handouts were given out to inform parents/guardians of their child’s weight status and phone surveys were conducted as a follow up to the clinic visit.

Results: Child’s BMI percentile is directly correlated with the parent/guardian BMI percentile. BMI percentile was also positively correlated with child’s age, showing that we need to intervene early. Handouts were shown to be very effective; 100% of parents/guardians trusted the information in the handout and 100% agreed with the provider’s weight placement.

Conclusion: More education during child checkups may be beneficial for weight control and for the promotion of a healthy lifestyle among all children. Health professionals should not assume that defining overweight according to the growth charts has meaning for all parents/guardians. This study highlights the need for future research to explore effective strategies for helping busy physicians increase parents’ awareness of their children’s overweight and obese status and promote a healthy body weight for all children.