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WA parents misjudge their children’s weight

Media release

Curtin University has worked collaboratively to determine that many Western Australian parents misjudge their child’s weight status and as a result, majority express no intention to help their child achieve a healthy weight.

Dr Christina Pollard, Curtin’s School of Public Health, said in Western Australia (WA), one-quarter of children aged between five and 15 years are overweight or obese and this can have significant health impacts.

“The aim of this research was to report on parents’ perceptions of their child’s weight status, body mass index (BMI) and intended actions regarding their child’s weight,” Dr Pollard said.

“The study found that parents often perceive their child to be in a lower BMI category than is actually the case.

“As a result of these misconceptions, more than half the parents with children who were above or below the healthy BMI range, said they intended to “do nothing” about their child’s weight.”

Evidence suggests that overweight or obesity in childhood is associated with developmental, mental health and physical health problems, as well as premature mortality and morbidity during adulthood.

“The results of this research reinforce the importance of population-level, parent-focussed interventions targeting perceptions of children’s weight,” Dr Pollard said.

“Correcting body weight misperceptions and increasing awareness of appropriate weight management is a public health priority affecting growth and development in the short term and chronic disease risk in later life.”

Data was collected from 4,437 parents as part of the Department of Health’s Western Australian Health and Wellbeing Surveillance System.

The research project was undertaken in collaboration and with the support of Department of Health.

The paper, titled Parents’ perceptions of their child’s weight status and intention to intervene: a Western Australian cross-sectional population survey, 2009 -12 has been published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.

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