There is no doubt that the problem of childhood obesity in the United States and other countries can be regarded as one of the most important factors influencing the health of the entire nation. Considering the current obesity rates in the United States, the situation is quite different for various states, but the most common tendencies related to the problem are rather unpromising. Taking into account the growing number of obese children in the country and the strict connection of this tendency with the modern lifestyle, close attention must be paid to the particular methods aimed at reducing the problem. Especially, it can be extremely important to compare and contrast the role of parent education and common methods of treatment in childhood obesity prevention.
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The problem of parent education in connection with childhood obesity prevention does not belong to the number of the most popular topics chosen by researchers because many specialists regard the role of patient education as a matter of course. Nevertheless, there are studies devoted to the problem of the effectiveness of parent education for obesity treatment and prevention. Nowadays, many researchers agree that the role of parents in obesity treatment cannot be overstated as their actions and assumptions concerning lifestyle that they inculcate in their children can have both positive and negative impact on the situation.
Thus, parents always have to choose between two strategies and promote either unhealthy eating habits or the rules of healthy consumption. In their study, Natale et al. (2014) present the results of their experiment aimed at assessing the influence that rules promoted by teachers and parents have on eating habits of preschoolers. The results indicate that children whose parents were promoting healthy lifestyle patterns started consuming food that was not recommended by their parents less often. In particular, the results indicate that the consumption of junk food (including fast food, sweet beverages, salted snacks, etc.) has significantly decreased during the experiment. Also, the significant impact of parents’ recommendations on the importance of physical activity for their children was found. Apart from that, the researchers prove that the intervention of parents helps to increase the consumption of vegetables and fruits. Therefore, the effectiveness of parent education is confirmed.
The great role of parents in childhood obesity prevention is also confirmed by Rhee et al. (2016) who conducted their study to define the tendencies related to parenting that can have a positive impact on childhood obesity rates. During their research, the authors were focusing on the levels of control and warmth related to parenting. According to the hypothesis, these factors could have an impact on body mass index and general physical condition of children participating in weight control programs. The research included studying a few parenting dimensions with the help of observation – parents are their obese children who were videotaped during their meals.
The majority of families belonging to the number of participants were able to complete the weight control program designed by the researchers. To some extent, the results of this study are aligned with those of the article prepared by Natale et al. (2014) as both sources indicate that the way that parents communicate with their children has a significant impact on the health condition of the latter. At the same time, the authors of the second article were more concerned about the particular psychological characteristics of parents capable of influencing children’s BMI. Thus, it was found that the degrees of parent education and parental warmth both had a positive impact on the BMI of obese children. Therefore, both studies confirm that the successful treatment of obesity in children and the opportunity to improve children’s lifestyles are inextricably connected with the behavior of their parents.
The effectiveness of parent education for childhood obesity treatment and prevention is also confirmed by Sung-Chan, Sung, Zhao, and Brownson (2013). Unlike the previous authors, these researchers were assessing the effectiveness of obesity management programs more objectively because the study presents a systematic review. Within the frame of their research, the authors classified and reviewed fifteen controlled trials including interventions for children and teenagers aimed at reducing obesity rates. The researchers indicate that the family-based approach or the approach based on parent education has become the most popular alternative chosen by numerous researchers due to its perceived effectiveness. The systematic review conducted by the researchers is focused on the problem of the methodological correctness and exactness of interventions designed by the authors of the reviewed studies.
Using the MQRS tool to define the degree of methodological integrity and effectiveness of interventions, the researchers concluded that the most appropriate research methods related to the defined research questions were chosen in the majority of cases. At the same time, the analysis of the outcomes identified by the authors of the reviewed studies indicates that the outcomes were at least satisfactory in the majority of cases. The most effective family-based interventions, the researchers indicate, were those combining the focus on parent education and the use of behavioral approach to childhood obesity treatment. Treatment with the help of medicinal drugs was not taken into consideration in all three studies chosen for the literature review as researchers in the field do not tend to set parent education in opposition to medical treatment. These two options are often seen as methods that can strengthen each other and, therefore, they are used together to achieve the best possible patient outcomes.
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Apart from studying the importance and effectiveness of parent education in connection with childhood obesity prevention, many researchers understand that family-based obesity prevention interventions can be more or less successful for underage patients depending on the particular factors such as the frequency of interventions and activities. At the same time, it is clear that many researchers who design interventions aimed at reducing obesity rates tend to report only short-term outcomes in their articles. Even though the data reported by such researchers can be accurate and align with the previous studies in the field, some specialists still believe that long-term outcomes of family-based interventions should be studied more thoroughly. More attention should be paid to the long-term consequences of interventions aimed at reducing childhood obesity due to different reasons.
There are cases when the perceived effectiveness of such interventions is rather low due to organizational problems that could be improved (Lucas et al., 2014). Additional aspects are especially important for the proposed research because the real benefits and weaknesses of healthcare interventions designed to reduce or prevent obesity can be assessed only in the longer term. To add to the findings of the previous researchers in the field, Taylor et al. (2015) conducted their study where the outcomes of a long-term family-based intervention expected to encourage weight loss in children were compared to the outcomes of usual healthcare practices.
The two groups of obese and overweight children receiving usual care and the personalized one involving parent education and changes related to patient’s BMI and assumptions were studied with the help of questionnaires, observation, and other tools. The results retrieved by the researchers support those reported by other authors studying the effectiveness of parent education in connection with childhood obesity. Thus, the results associated with weight loss in children were much more positive in the second group that was receiving the treatment with an emphasis on parent education and parent-child relationships. In terms of the most appropriate frequency of healthcare interventions, the researchers conclude that the best option for children and their families was to receive frequent support in small amounts.
In general, as is clear from the studies included in the research, the majority of experiments indicate that interventions aimed at reducing obesity rates that are focused on parent education produce good results. In particular, sources are proving that the practical outcomes of such interventions are much more significant than those of usual treatment. The significant role of parent education in obesity treatment and prevention is confirmed by numerous researchers studying participants with different cultural backgrounds. Despite that, some studies indicate the additional problem related to this method of obesity prevention which is presented by the perceived ineffectiveness of interventions started by parents. Even though the perceptions of the effectiveness of patient education may vary, the use of BMI measurements confirms an increased need for patient education based on the specific needs and problems of underage patients.
Lucas, P. J., Curtis-Tyler, K., Arai, L., Stapley, S., Fagg, J., & Roberts, H. (2014). What works in practice: User and provider perspectives on the acceptability, affordability, implementation, and impact of a family-based intervention for child overweight and obesity delivered at scale. BMC Public Health, 14(1), 614.
Natale, R. A., Messiah, S. E., Asfour, L., Uhlhorn, S., Delamater, A., & Arheart, K. L. (2014). Role modeling as an early childhood obesity prevention strategy: Effect of parents and teachers on preschool children’s healthy lifestyle habits. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 35(6), 378–387.
Rhee, K. E., Jelalian, E., Boutelle, K., Dickstein, S., Seifer, R., & Wing, R. (2016). Warm parenting associated with decreasing or stable child BMI during treatment. Childhood Obesity, 12(2), 94-102.
Sung-Chan, P., Sung, Y. W., Zhao, X., & Brownson, R. C. (2013). Family-based models for childhood-obesity intervention: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Obesity Reviews, 14(4), 265-278.
Taylor, R. W., Cox, A., Knight, L., Brown, D. A., Meredith-Jones, K., Haszard, J. J.,… Williams, S. M. (2015). A tailored family-based obesity intervention: A randomized trial. Pediatrics, 136(2), 281-289.