Objective: To assess the extent to which parental understanding and motivation influence their efforts to manage the obese child; with special emphasis on eating habits and physical activity.
Method: The National Child Management Programme Evaluation Study (NCMPE) questionnaire was administered to parents of children 5 to 16 years of age who were enrolled in a programme to reduce their body mass index (BMI) at the Wendy Fitzwilliam Paediatric clinic (WFPC) between January 2012 and June 2016. Excluded were children on medication affecting their weight, children with eating disorders and those diagnosed with mental illness. They were followed over ten consecutive visits to assess the change in their BMI.
Results: Fifty parents/guardians were found to be eligible to participate in the study. Of these twenty-eight parents’ (56%) perception of their child’s weight status was different from the child’s actual weight status. Forty parents (80%) expressed readiness to implement healthy eating and exercise habits as part of the child’s daily routine. Parents demonstrated a fair understanding of the present and future consequences of their children being overweight and obese; and 64% (n = 32) said that they were committed to encouraging increased physical activity among the children. Parents generally felt more confident about changing the diet than increasing activity. They stated that time, cost and access were not hindrances to their ability to provide healthy food or promote increased physical activity.
Conclusion: The study showed that parents were not good at assessing their child’s weight status and had a limited understanding of the present and future consequences of their child being overweight or obese. They were, however, motivated to implement a healthy diet and exercise to their child’s daily routine but felt more confident with the former.
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