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Abstract

Background: A child’s weight status can allow health care professionals to assess their developmental growth. A child having a low or high weight for height could be due to an imbalance in nutrient intake occurring. It is important to balance dietary intake and physical activity to maintain a healthy weight status. Excessive consumption of food can lead to an overweight/obese weight status which is linked to non-communicable diseases. Parental feeding style can directly impact a child’s set of eating behaviours. Therefore, parents have a strong influence over a child’s growth pattern. In addition, parental awareness of childhood obesity is reported to be poor which could be a barrier to interventions.

Aim: To determine; (1) the weight status of children aged 2-5 years attending Sligo University Hospital (SUH); (2) current parental feeding styles being utilised; (3) whether parents were able to correctly classify their own weight status and that of their child and if this was associated with parental misclassification of their own weight status and (4) whether parents are interested in further information in this area, and what form this information/guidance should take.

Method: A cross-sectional study was conducted in a paediatric outpatient department between September 2018 and May 2019. Data collected included anthropometric measurements and demographic information as well as a validated parental feeding style questionnaire. Data analysis was conducted using SPSS version 24. Statistical significance was set at p <.05.

Results: Fifty parents and children were recruited. 72% of children were classified as having a normal weight status, 22% an overweight status and 6% an obese weight status. No parent correctly classified a child as having an overweight status. No association was found between parental misclassification of a child’s weight status and their own weight status. The majority of parents used an encouragement feeding style. 84% of parents reported to be interested in obtaining healthy lifestyle information. The preferred method of receiving this information is in the form of a leaflet.

Discussion/Conclusion: The childhood overweight and obesity rates within this cohort are slightly above the national rates for childhood obesity. Parental awareness of childhood overweight/obesity was found to be poor as illustrated in previous studies. Interventions need to be implemented to improve parental classification of a child’s weight status. Parents expressed an interest in receiving health education material in this setting.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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