Parental Recall of Doctor Communication of Weight Status: National Trends From 1999 Through 2008

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Abstract

Objective

To examine time trends in parental reports of health professional notification of childhood overweight over the last decade and to determine the characteristics most associated with such notification.

Design

Secondary data analysis using χ2 tests to examine the relationships between multiple factors on the reports of parents and/or caregivers (hereinafter “parents”) and logistic regression for multivariate analysis.

Setting

National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999 through 2008.

Participants

Parents of 4985 children aged 2 to 15 years with body mass index (BMI) in the 85th percentile or higher based on measured height and weight.

Main Outcome Measures

Affirmative answer to the following question: “Has a doctor or health professional ever told you that your child is overweight?”

Results

During 1999 through 2008, 22% of parents of children with BMIs in the 85th percentile or higher reported having been told by a doctor or health professional that their child was overweight; recall of notification was actually more likely among nonwhite and poor children. This percentage increased from 19.4% to 23.2% from the 1999-2004 period and further accelerated in the 2007-2008 period to 29.1%. The time trend persisted in multivariate analyses, with significantly more parents reporting having been told in 2007 through 2008 than in 1999 through 2000.

Conclusion

Fewer than one-quarter of parents of overweight children report having been told that their child was overweight. While reports of notification have increased over the last decade (perhaps because of [1] revised definitions of overweight and obesity, [2] increased concern about children with BMIs in the 85th to 95th sex- and age-specific percentiles, or [3] improved recall by parents), further research is necessary to determine where and why communication of weight status breaks down.

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