Caregivers’ inability to identify childhood adiposity: A cross-sectional survey of rural children and their caregivers’ attitudes

Authors


John Fraser, Hunter New England Area Health Service, Rural Training Unit, Locked Bag 9783, Tamworth, New South Wales 2348, Australia. Email: john.fraser@hnehealth.nsw.gov.au

Abstract

Objectives: To determine the prevalence of overweight and obese children in north-western New South Wales and to assess caregivers’ ability to detect adiposity in their children.

Design: A cross-sectional survey using a standardised caregiver questionnaire and anthropometric measurements of school children attending 10 primary schools selected by stratified random sampling.

Subjects: A total of 598 eligible school children aged between five and eight years.

Measurements: Body mass index for children; caregivers’ assessment of their children's dietary intake, physical activity and adiposity by questionnaire.

Results: A total of 348 caregivers responded to the survey, yielding a response rate of 58.2%. Significantly more caregivers of boys (200) than girls (144) chose to participate (χ2 = 8.3, d.f. = 1, P < 0.01). The vast majority of caregivers (87%) consented to their children being measured. Body mass index measurements revealed the following: more than three quarters of boys (82%) and girls (77%) were of normal weight. Of boys and girls 13% were overweight. Twice as many girls (6%) than boys (3%) were obese. In total, 31% of caregivers underestimated the weight of their children. This proportion of caregivers underestimating the correct weight category of their children almost doubled to 56% of caregivers of overweight children. Proportionately more caregivers of overweight boys underestimated their children's weight than caregivers of girls (67% compared with 44%).

Conclusion: Health promotional activities need to address, as a matter of priority, caregivers’ ability to accurately assess the correct weight category of their children.

Ancillary