Childhood obesity is a persistent problem faced by developed nations, including the United States. As shown by Ogden, Carrol, Fryar, and Flegal (2015), between 2011 and 2014, the average prevalence of obesity in youths aged 2-19 was 17%. In school-aged children, the rate of obesity was 17.5%, whereas, in children aged 2-5, the rate of obesity was 8.9% (Ogden et al., 2015). Childhood obesity is connected to various health implications in further life, as the excess weight and unhealthy eating habits usually persist into adulthood. Pan et al. (2016) explain that childhood obesity is associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and certain types of cancer.
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Obesity also has a significant effect on the healthcare sector in general. The economic burden of obesity and conditions related to it is high. As noted by Lobstein (2015), the annual cost of obesity and related illnesses in the United States is $147 billion, which represents 21% of the U.S. annual healthcare budget. Furthermore, obesity impacts the health sector by increasing the demand for healthcare services. Reducing the prevalence of obesity would help to promote better public health and reduce the healthcare spending in the United States. Thus, preventing and managing childhood obesity is an important task for health professionals.
Childhood obesity is a significant public health issue affecting the lives of many people in the United States. Therefore, finding an efficient way to manage and prevent childhood obesity is crucial to relieving the economic and health burden of the condition. Previous studies in Europe suggested a strong link between parental education and childhood obesity outcomes (Fernández-Alvira et al., 2013). Thus, it is essential to research the impact of parental education and compare it to medical treatment of childhood obesity in the United States.
Purpose of the Study
The main purpose of the study is to determine the effectiveness of parental education in treating and preventing childhood obesity. The study will seek to compare parental education to the traditional medical treatment of childhood obesity regarding its effectiveness. Focusing on American school-aged children and their parents, the study will also seek to determine individual factors moderating the effectiveness of educational interventions.
The key goal of the study is to compare parental education and medical treatment in terms of their effectiveness in managing and preventing childhood obesity. Therefore, the main research question to be answered by the study is as follows: “In children suffering from obesity, does the education of parents in the healthy lifestyle for the children improve obesity outcomes, compared to medical treatment?”. However, the scope of the study will also allow answering other research questions. For example, the study will show if parental education is at all effective in managing and preventing childhood obesity. Moreover, the study will also help to determine individual factors that could affect the relationship between parental education and child’s health outcomes.
The research hypothesis for the study is primarily based on previous research on the topic. For instance, a study by Fernández-Alvira et al. (2013) showed that there was “a strong association of parental education level with the frequency of consumption of high-fat, high-sugar foods and products increasing the risk of obesity” (p. 496). Thus, children of parents who have sufficient knowledge of nutrition and obesity management are more likely to be successful in eating a balanced diet, thus achieving and maintaining a healthy weight (Fernández-Alvira et al., 2013).
In addition, it is likely that education on obesity prevention and management could help parents and other family members to avoid gaining excess weight and remain healthy. According to research, this could also impact children’s habits and weight management efforts. As noted by Muthuri et al. (2016), in families where mother and father are overweight, children are more likely to be overweight than in families where parents have a healthy weight. Thus, the research and null hypotheses are as follows:
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- Research Hypothesis. Parental education is more effective than medical treatment in reducing childhood obesity.
- Null hypothesis. Parental education is less effective than medical treatment in reducing childhood obesity.
The two variables that are of the key interest to the study are parental education and child’s obesity. In order to operationalize the first variable, it might be useful to replace the term “parental education” with “parental knowledge”, as knowledge can be assessed using tests. In this way, the study will be able to study education outcomes as the moderating factor affecting the relationship between the educational intervention and childhood obesity. Alternatively, the variable can be operationalized using hours of classes received for measurement.
Childhood obesity can be operationalized using body mass index (BMI). BMI is a popular measure that is often used in clinical studies of obesity, as it takes into account both the weight and the height of a patient rather than the weight only. In addition, using BMI as the operational variable would help to grade children’s obesity by levels from 1 (low-risk) to 3 (high-risk). An alternative operational variable that could be used to measure obesity is weight change, represented in percentages from starting weight. This would assist in the visual representation of the results, which would also benefit the study.
Fernández-Alvira, J. M., Mouratidou, T., Bammann, K., Hebestreit, A., Barba, G., Sieri, S.,… Huybrechts, I. (2013). Parental education and frequency of food consumption in European children: The IDEFICS study. Public Health Nutrition, 16(3), 487-498.
Lobstein, T. (2015). Prevalence and costs of obesity. Medicine, 43(2), 77-79.
Muthuri, S. K., Onywera, V. O., Tremblay, M. S., Broyles, S. T., Chaput, J. P., Fogelholm, M.,… Maher, C. (2016). Relationships between parental education and overweight with childhood overweight and physical activity in 9-11 year old children: Results from a 12-country study. PloS ONE, 11(8), 1-14.
Ogden, C. L., Carroll, M. D., Fryar, C. D., & Flegal, K. M. (2015). Prevalence of obesity among adults and youth: United States, 2011-2014. Web.
Pan, L., Freedman, D. S., Sharma, A. J., Castellanos-Brown, K., Park, S., Smith, R. B., & Blanck, H. M. (2016). Trends in obesity among participants aged 2-4 years in the special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children—United States, 2000–2014. MMWR Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 65(45), 1256-1260.