Childhood obesity is one of the most multifaceted public health problems currently challenging the nation with serious medical and economic consequences for the future. Recognition of the increasing overweight status of children has prompted the need to identify factors associated with this trend. This studyis the first to qualitatively examine eating patterns of families of overweight preschool children, aged three to five years, living in a predominantly rural agricultural area in the Northern Plains of the United States. This article presents the findings from an initial focus group interview. Ten parents of ten preschool children who were three to five years of age designated as being overweightor obese using body mass index measurements were recruited and interviewed. This paper presents preliminary findings (eating patterns) of a dually focused study related to healthy eating and physical activity in this selected population. The results of this study suggest that intervention focused on overweight parents of young children is warranted. Further focus group interviews and participantobservation are required to add to the depth and scope of knowledge about strategies to prevent children from becoming overweight or obese.
Childhood obesity is an increasing public health concern. The National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified significant increases in the prevalence of overweight and obese children atyounger than five years across all ethnic groups (Freedman, Khan, Serdula, Ogden, & Dietz, 2006). The prevalence of overweight status in children aged two to five years increased from 10.6% to 13.9% between 2001-2002 and 2003-2004 (Ogden et al., 2006). Additionally, younger children are at a higher risk of becoming overweight than older children and adolescents (Rappaport & Robbins, 2005).Several studies have found that overweight and obesity are more prevalent among rural children than their urban counterparts (Joens-Matre et al., 2008; Reifsnider et al., 2006). Therefore, the most vulnerable pediatric population to be overweight or obese is that of preschoolers from rural communities.
The definition of the ‘obese’ and ‘overweight’ child is often misunderstood. Phrases such as a‘healthy chubby child’ and ‘baby fat’ only obscure what are meant by overweight and obesity among children. Most recently the CDC uses the term ‘overweight’ (as having a body mass index [BMI] at or above the 85th to less than 95th percentile for children of the same age and sex) and ‘obesity’ (as having a BMI at or above the 95th percentile for children of the same age and sex) to describe childweight status (CDC BMI-for-age growth charts, 2008). With the understanding of an increasing preschool childhood obesity, the link between childhood obesity and persistent adult obesity (Guo, Wu, Chumlea & Roche, 2002; Nader et al., 2006) gives rise to further concern for the associated long term complications. Obese 3- to 5-year olds have a significantly greater risk of adult obesity than dotheir peers (Nader et al.). Childhood obesity is also associated with a higher prevalence of intermediate metabolic consequences and risk factors such as insulin resistance, impaired glucose tolerance, increased C-reactive protein concentration, increased blood pressure, and elevated blood lipid levels (Cook, Weitzman, Auinger, Nguyen & Diets, 2003; Weiss et al., 2004). Furthermore, obesityaffects children’s psychosocial well-being and can lead to depression and low self-esteem (Reeves, Postolache & Snitker, 2008). Factors associated with an increase in the prevalence of overweight children and the development of childhood obesity are complex (Hesketh, Wake, Carlin & Crawford, 2002). The food environment provided by parents nurtures the child’s preferences; these preferences...