Health Professionals Support School-Based Obesity Prevention

The agenda of this study was to ascertain the attitude of the parents and health professionals regarding the prevention of the prevalence of the childhood obesity. Comparing the prevalent data with the national figures was also one of the main goals of this research. The study was conducted in one primary school on the Central Coast of NSW and the total number of the participating students was 167. This research was actually conducted as a formative approach to strategy development for this large primary school which approached the local health care authority for a model design to be adapted by the school in order to prevent the increase in the overweight and obese children in it.

 The subjects for the research were selected largely from the school itself. A total of 170 parents (85%), 31 school staff (89%) and 40 (80%) health workers completed the attitude survey. The researchers selected 167 (83.6%) school children randomly from selected classes representing Kindergarten to Year 6. The anthropometric parameters such as the height and weight of these selected students were taken into documentation (Sutherland et all, The Journal of the Dieticians Association of Australia; 2004; 138).

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Researchers in this study assessed the attitudes of the parents and healthcare professionals by means of a 21-item attitude survey. Before the study they assessed the content validity of the literature review (for 21-item survey method) and the re-test reliability of this test – that value stood at k=0.61-0.85. In order to measure the overweight and obesity Body Mass Indices of 25 (for overweight) and 30 (for obese) were taken as the cut-off parameters. The researchers used the Kruskal-Wallis value (P=<0.05) to exactly pinpoint where the differences of attitudes occurred between the three groups.

The results brought out interesting facts about the general attitudes of the children, parents and the schools as a whole. The socio-psychological causes behind these results point towards one defect in the entire societal machinery that the attitude and approach towards the prevention of childhood obesity is not as rampant as the speed with which it is growing. In fact, the researchers declared that the teachers displayed least percent of support (P = 0.014). This also indicates how important it is to keep our teachers aware of the problem and even more importantly, make them realize the significance of their role in this endeavour of preventing the childhood obesity.

On the other hand, health professionals displayed excellent attitude in that they took the leading edge in supporting the school in the prevention of the prevalence of the childhood obesity. The ultimate results were like this: Of the 167 children who had their height and weight measured, 37.7% (n = 63) were either overweight (n = 43, 25.7%) or obese (n = 20, 12.0%). The ensuing data is really worrisome as the numbers indicate the gravity of the speed and scale with which the childhood obesity is growing and affecting the youth (Sutherland et all, The Journal of the Dieticians Association of Australia; 2004; 140:144).

This study shows the need for more research in this direction so as to make certain whether providing continuous professional development aids to the teachers will enhance the involvement of the teachers in such programmes and increase their support to school-based childhood obesity prevention programmes.

Eventually this study exposed the reluctance of teachers to lend their support to such trials, as along revealing the overloaded curriculum as one of the reason for the least support from teachers. There is, needless to emphasize the vitality, a requirement of a more concrete strategy that can be employed in such school-based childhood obesity prevention research programmes and initiatives.

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