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Promoting healthy weight for all young children: a mixed methods study of child and family health nurses' perceptions of barriers and how to overcome them

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posted on 2020-01-01, 00:00 authored by H Cheng, R Eames-Brown, A Tutt, Rachel LawsRachel Laws, V Blight, A McKenzie, C Rossiter, Karen CampbellKaren Campbell, K Sim, C Fowler, R Seabury, E Denney-Wilson
Abstract Background Childhood obesity is a global health concern. Early intervention to help parents adopt best practice for infant feeding and physical activity is critical for maintaining healthy weight. Australian governments provide universal free primary healthcare from child and family health nurses (CFHNs) to support families with children aged up to five years and to provide evidence-based advice to parents. This paper aims to examine factors influencing the child obesity prevention practices of CFHNs and to identify opportunities to support them in promoting healthy infant growth. Methods This mixed methods study used a survey (n = 90) and semi-structured interviews (n = 20) with CFHNs working in two local health districts in Sydney, Australia. Survey data were analysed descriptively; interview transcripts were coded and analysed iteratively. Survey and interview questions examined how CFHNs addressed healthy infant feeding practices, healthy eating, active play and limiting sedentary behaviour during routine consultations; factors influencing such practices; and how CFHNs could be best supported. Results CFHNs frequently advised parents on breastfeeding, introducing solid foods, and techniques for settling infants. They spent less time providing advice on evidence-based formula feeding practices or encouraging physical activity in young children. Although nurses frequently weighed and measured children, they did not always use growth charts to identify those at risk of becoming overweight or obese. Nurses identified several barriers to promoting healthy weight gain in infants and young children, including limited parental recognition of overweight in their children or motivation to change diet or lifestyle; socioeconomic factors (such as the cost of healthy food); and beliefs and attitudes about infant weight and the importance of breastfeeding and physical activity amongst parents and family members. Conclusions CFHNs require further education and support for their role in promoting optimal child growth and development, especially training in behaviour change techniques to increase parents’ understanding of healthy infant weight gain. Parent information resources should be accessible and address cultural diversity. Resources should highlight the health effects of childhood overweight and obesity and emphasise the benefits of breastfeeding, appropriate formula feeding, suitable first foods, responsiveness to infant feeding cues, active play and limiting screen time.



BMC nursing



Article number



1 - 14


BioMed Central


London, Eng.







Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal