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Keywords:

  • Pre-schoolers;
  • parents’ suggestions;
  • physical activity programmes;
  • screen viewing

Summary

Childhood obesity is on the rise, and interventions targeted at pre-school-aged children are essential for the primary prevention of this disease. Physical activity programming and decreasing screen viewing may be advantageous ways to reduce the early onset of obesity. Parents’ perceptions regarding effective tools and programmes to target obesity are needed to develop an efficacious programme. Ten semi-structured focus groups were conducted for this qualitative study. Two experienced moderators facilitated all focus groups which were conducted in local day cares, workplaces and play groups, frequented by parents. All focus groups were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Strategies to ensure trustworthiness of the data were employed. A heterogeneous sample of 71 parents were asked about their pre-schoolers’ physical activity levels and screen viewing behaviours, in addition to their suggestions for programmes to facilitate the development of healthy habits. Parents agreed that physical activity programming was an ideal way to combat obesity in pre-schoolers. Programming suggestions included involving parents in the programme planning and operation, increasing accessibility to programmes, providing more facilities, better promotional strategies such as the use of a television commercial, and resources/ideas to engage children in the home. Parents’ programming suggestions lacked discussion around addressing screen viewing as a viable way to attend to the current obesity epidemic. Parents must be made aware of programmes and resources currently available. Modifying current programmes’ scheduling to include morning and afternoon sessions, and arranging for physicians to hand out resources with physical activity ideas, particularly during the winter months, is essential.