The Early Prediction and Prevention of Obesity during Childhood (EPPOC) research project explored local parents’ and healthcare professionals’ views about identifying babies under the age of one who are at risk of being obese in childhood and what could be done to address the problem.
The research team ran focus groups across Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire during which they spoke to 38 parents about their babies size, growth and feeding. The sessions revealed that some parents had concerns over whether breast milk was sufficient for some babies’ contentment and growth and were confused over when to start weaning their child. There were some parents who believed larger or chubbier babies were more desirable. Some parents believed that crying almost always indicated hunger and did not consider alternative explanations for their babies’ distress. In addition, parents seemed uncertain about whether and how healthcare professionals should act on the early signs that babies could be at risk of becoming obese as children.
The focus groups highlighted that additional advice may be needed to help parents understand the physiology of breast feeding, how to differentiate between babies crying because they are hungry and other causes and the timing of weaning. Parents also requested greater guidance on how to recognise and prepare healthy foods and keep their babies physically active. (The full copy of this paper is available from www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/10/711/)
The research team also carried out a survey of 116 healthcare professionals including GPs, practice nurses, health visitors and nursery and community nurses working in Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire. The survey showed that GPs were asked for advice on feeding by parents of babies less frequently than health visitors and nursery nurses despite knowing more about the health risks of obesity. Conversely, health visitors and nursery nurses were more confident than GPs and other nurses about providing parents with advice about feeding their babies but were less knowledgeable about the health risks of obesity.
In addition, interviews with 12 GPs and six practice nurses revealed they believed that advising parents on how to feed their babies and obesity prevention was health visitors’ work. GPs interviewed for this study reported that at the time no formal training was available to help them advise parents about feeding their babies. They considered their relationship with parents a high priority and were unsure about intervening with those whose babies might be at risk of becoming obese as children.
The survey and interviews highlighted the need for healthcare professionals to be more knowledgeable about the early signs of childhood obesity and that advice to parents needs to be more consistent. (A full copy of this paper is available at www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2296/12/54)
The research team included academics from the Universities of Nottingham and Lincoln, a clinician from Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust and a health visitor from Nottingham CityCare Partnership.
Parents are invited to provide comments about the study findings and the research team’s future work on the website www.nottingham.ac.uk/nmpresearch/eppoc/home.aspx
Advancing Lifelong Health for Children is a key project within the University’s new appeal, Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, which is tackling childhood obesity and is delivering the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. Ground-breaking research into controlling brown adipose tissue will help prevent excess body weight and improve long term health outcomes for today’s children. More information is available at http://tiny.cc/UoNImpact
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