Parents as the start of the solution: a social marketing approach to understanding triggers and barriers to entering a childhood weight management service

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Abstract

Background:

Childhood obesity is a sensitive subject and barriers exist with respect to accessing weight management programmes. Social marketing insight gathering provides an opportunity to understand behaviours and address these challenges. This project gained insight into the views of parents/carers on triggers and barriers to entering a childhood weight management service.

Methods:

Participants were identified from the public using marketing recruitment. Four focus groups were conducted with parents of school aged children (n = 27) by an experienced interviewer. Twenty two mothers, three fathers and two grandmothers participated, with half describing their child as overweight. Groups discussed health behaviours; attitudes to health messages and weight issues; and motivations, benefits and barriers with respect to accessing weight management services. Discussions were taped and transcribed. Themes were identified using framework analysis of content matrix data analysis.

Results:

Participants were aware of healthy lifestyle messages, although the ability to implement these was variable. Triggers to seeking help included bullying, health concerns and inability to participate in school activities. Barriers included feeling a lack of control, desire to avoid conflict and no proven case that weight was a problem. Parents wished to be given information regarding their child's weight by a trusted person. The Internet and word of mouth were identified as methods of recruitment into a weight management service, with a focus on fitness, fun and friendliness and being free-of-charge.

Conclusions:

Insight gathering can be used to establish parental/carer opinion regarding engaging in childhood weight management services. A fun, friendly programme that is free of charge appealed to parents. Local community involvement around normalising child weight issues may boost referrals into child healthy weight interventions.

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