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Is school community perception of student weight status a barrier for addressing childhood obesity?
journal contributionposted on 01.01.2019, 00:00 authored by Jennifer Marks, Lisa BarnettLisa Barnett, Steven AllenderSteven Allender
ISSUE ADDRESSED: Schools are a target for childhood obesity prevention strategies, yet intervention effectiveness may be hindered by school community perceptions (staff and students) and readiness to address the problem. We firstly describe students' perception of their own weight status. Secondly, we describe school staff perceptions and preparedness to address childhood obesity in their school. METHODS: Measured and self-report weight status were collected simultaneously from 11- to 14-year-old students (N = 339/733; RR 46%) recruited from 42 schools in Victoria, Australia. Student objective weight status was compared to self-report. School community readiness to address childhood obesity data was collected from staff (N = 114) at all participating schools. School readiness survey data were scored and descriptive analyses conducted for further insight of derived readiness scores. RESULTS: Using objective assessment, 18% (n = 62) of students were obese, but only 4% (n = 12) accurately identified themselves as obese. School communities were concerned about the problem of childhood obesity in general, yet were assessed at low stages of readiness to take action within their community. Descriptive data identified a strong focus on promoting healthy eating and physical activity through education. Further efforts to target childhood obesity appeared to be hindered by limited support, resources and engagement with the broader community. CONCLUSION: Perceptions of childhood obesity prevalence, low stages of readiness and limited school capacity may hinder prevention strategies. SO WHAT?: Perceptions of what is normal weight may have implications for prevention. Efforts must be informed by accurate weight data and require a broader community approach beyond the school environment.