Parents' Views on Engaging Families of Middle School Students in Obesity Prevention and Control in a Multiethnic Population

Published in: Preventing Chronic Disease, v. 11, Apr. 2014, p. 1-10

Posted on RAND.org on April 01, 2014

by Burton O. Cowgill, Paul J. Chung, Lindsey E. Thompson, Jacinta Elijah, Sheila Lamb, Vanessa P. Garcia, Roshan Bastani

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Research Question

  1. How do parents of middle school children prefer to be engaged in obesity prevention programs for their children, especially racial/ethnic minority parents and parents whose primary language is not English?

INTRODUCTION: Overweight and obesity remain significant public health risks for youth in the United States, particularly among racial/ethnic minority groups. Efforts at obesity prevention and control have targeted youth and family members in diverse settings. Although involving parents in obesity prevention programs for youth may improve the potential of these programs, less is known about parents' preferred methods of engagement, especially among racial/ethnic minority parents and parents whose primary language is not English. In this qualitative study, parents of middle-school–aged children were asked how best to engage their children in obesity prevention and control efforts. METHODS: We recruited 38 parents whose children attended Los Angeles middle schools to participate in focus groups. Two English-language focus groups with 14 parents of different racial/ethnic backgrounds and 2 Spanish language groups with 24 Latino parents were conducted from 2010 through 2011. We analyzed focus group transcripts by using content analysis using inductive and deductive techniques. RESULTS: Findings from focus groups confirmed that parents want to help their children avoid obesity but feel constrained in their ability to take action. Participants identified an overarching desire to become better parents as a potential incentive to engage in obesity prevention efforts. Parents advocated for family-focused approaches in obesity prevention programs, including family sports leagues and cooking classes. Most findings were consistent between language groups, but parents in the Spanish language groups cited language-related barriers. CONCLUSION: The development and testing of simple programs that are sustainable, community-based, and family-focused may empower families to address obesity prevention and control.

Key Findings

  • Parents want to participate in obesity prevention programs for their children, but their motivation stems from their desire to feel better about themselves as parents.
  • Parents interviewed in Spanish language groups cited language-related barriers to engaging in prevention efforts.

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