FitwitsTM Leads to Improved Parental Recognition of Childhood Obesity and Plans to Encourage Change

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Abstract

Introduction::

Brief tools are needed to help physicians and parents reach consensus on body mass index (BMI) categories for children and to discuss health-improving behaviors. This study tested the FitwitsTM intervention with interactive flashcards and before and- after surveys to improve parents' perceptions of children's BMI status.

Methods::

We enrolled 140 parents and their 9- to 12-year-old children presenting for well child care, regardless of BMI status, scheduled with 53 Fitwits-trained physicians. The Fitwits tool guided a conversation with all parent-child dyads regarding understanding BMI, nutrition, activity, and portion sizes. A survey addressed BMI category perceptions before and after the intervention, requested 2 goal selections, and included open-ended comment areas.

Results::

Fifty-three percent of children were overweight or obese. The primary outcome variable was the rate of correct parental identification of their child's weight status (underweight, healthy, overweight, or obese). The survey before the intervention resulted in 50.0% correct BMI category designations. This changed to 60.6% correct perceptions after the intervention, with movement between correct overweight (34.5% to 51.7%) and obese (4.4% to 24.4%) categories. Secondary outcome variables included specific behavior change goals and the qualitative responses of parents, children, and physicians to the intervention. Parent-child dyads predominantly commented favorably and chose (75.8%) goals corresponding to Fitwits card suggestions.

Conclusions::

An improvement was observed in parental ability to identify the correct BMI category after the intervention during a preadolescent well child visit. Parent underrecognition of overweight/obese children was also observed. Most parent comments were appreciative of the physician interaction, Fitwits flashcards, and health improvement exchange.

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