Objectives: Pediatric obesity is a significant and increasing problem in Native-American communities. The aim of this study was to determine whether parents and other caregivers from three Wisconsin tribes recognized overweight children. We also assessed caregiver attributes associated with levels of concern for risk of future overweight and chronic disease.
Research Methods and Procedures: Data were obtained from child health screenings and caregiver surveys. Participants included 366 kindergarten-through-second grade child–caregiver dyads. Children's BMI percentiles were calculated and compared with caregiver responses. We assessed the relationships between predictors of caregiver concern for health risk factors and recognition of overweight.
Results: Twenty-six percent of children were overweight (≥95th percentile), and 19% were at risk for being overweight (≥85th to <95th percentile) using Centers for Disease Control standards. Caregivers recognized only 15.1% of overweight children. Factors predictive of child overweight recognition included a child BMI >99th percentile and grandmother as caregiver. Overall, caregivers were more concerned about diabetes and cardiovascular disease than obesity. Parents with diabetes and heart disease were more concerned than others about risk for these diseases; however, only diabetic parents made a connection between child weight status and future risk of obesity-related disease. Child sex, child age, and parental education level were not significant predictors for caregiver recognition of an overweight child.
Discussion: Most caregivers did not recognize overweight children or associate excess weight with increased risk of disease. When designing community interventions, it is crucial to incorporate caregivers’ attitudes and beliefs regarding childhood overweight and risk of future disease.