Developing a focus group approach for exploring parents' perspectives on childhood overweight

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Numerous public health initiatives have been proposed in an attempt to reduce the number of overweight and obese children nationally. The success of such strategies is heavily reliant upon families recognising and becoming engaged with the issue. It is therefore important to understand parents' perceptions of excess weight in children and which preventive strategies would be most acceptable to them. The present paper describes the development of a focus group approach designed to explore these important research questions and illustrates techniques that can be readily implemented and replicated to explore complex and sensitive issues. Some of the potential difficulties of focus group research are also detailed, together with suggestions for successfully overcoming these obstacles. It is also demonstrated that both quantitative and qualitative methods can work in partnership, informing each other, and a combination of these approaches is necessary for future research if public health messages are to be successfully and effectively communicated.

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