Examining the Individual, Familial, and Environmental Factors Associated with Preschooler Nutrition and Physical Activity: Findings from a Mixed Methods Approach




Shaw, Ashley

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Childhood obesity has become a public health crisis. Nine percent of children globally are expected to be overweight or obese by 2020. In the U.S., 1/3 of children are overweight or obese. Early childhood is a critical period for obesity prevention intervention as the preschool child is easily influenced and new behaviors can still be learned. As 80% of preschoolers now spend a good portion of their day in childcare, parents now share the responsibility of developing healthy behaviors with childcare providers. The purpose of this thesis is to inform an intervention for early childhood obesity prevention by assessing the relationships between predictors of obesity (demographics, environment, habits) with children’s anthropometrics. This mixed methods study consisted of a cross sectional assessment of a sample of 49, 2-5 y children enrolled in two child development centers in Fairfax, VA, environmental evaluations, and parent centered focus groups. The two centers were significantly different with regards to parent education, income, and ethnicity (p<0.05) but there was no significant difference in children’s risk for obesity between centers. Higher waist circumference in children was related to the number of children in the household (p=0.024), and males were at a higher risk for obesity than females (p=0.016). Evaluation scores were significantly different between the centers (p=0.036). All parents felt CDC support and consistency necessary to combat time constraints and societal judgment in promoting healthy habits at home. The results of the current study inform and encourage continued efforts to advance the health of preschool children through the collaborations between parents and childcare providers.



Child obesity, EPAO, Focus groups, NutriSTEP, HAES, Early childcare