Communicating with parents of obese children: which channels are most effective?

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Abstract

BACKGROUND

One of the strategies proven most successful in curbing rising rates of childhood obesity involves targeting parents as agents of change. Prior studies have focused on what messages to communicate, but few have investigated how they should be communicated.

OBJECTIVE

To identify the channels most effective for communicating with parents of overweight and obese children and understand whether their use of parenting information sources differs from others in the community.

DESIGN/SETTING

This study utilizes data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC). Families were included if weight and height information was available for parents and children at three data collection points: Waves 1, 2 and 4 (collected 2004, 2006 and 2010, respectively, n = 5107).

ANALYSIS

A priori and a posteriori segmentation methods identified groups of parents that were similar in the sources used to obtain information about parenting, and examined whether some segments were more likely to have obese children.

RESULTS

Four segments were identified that differed in their information source use: the 'personal networks', 'books', 'official sources' and 'mixed approach' segments. The 'official sources' and 'mixed approach' segments were most likely to have obese children, and they used doctors, government/community organizations and friends to obtain information on parenting. These segments were also less educated and had lower employment.

CONCLUSIONS

Messages are most likely to reach families with obese children if communicated through doctors, government publications and community organizations. Further, messages targeting social groupings of parents will leverage the power of advice from friends, which is another valuable information source for this group.

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