Monday, August 25, 2014

Parental Perceptions of Overweight 20 Years Ago and Today: The Times (and BMIs) They Are a Changin’!

By: Lewis First, MD, MS; Editor-in-Chief 

Photo by epSos.de via Flickr
Part of the problem of trying to get a family to help their overweight child lose weight is getting parental buy-in—and that begins when parents agree that their child is medically perceived to be overweight. One would think that parents would view their child as being overweight quite easily—and while that may have been true 20 years ago—it is not as easily perceived today—at least according to a study we are sharing this week by Hansen et al. (doi: 10.1542/peds.2014-0012).

The authors looked at survey data from parents on close to 3,000 children (ages 6-11 years) enrolled in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in 1988 through 1994 and another cohort enrolled in 2005 to 2010 and found some substantive differences. Parents today are less likely to perceive their child as overweight: They did not view weight gain above the 85th percentile but below the 91st percentile as concerning, whereas 20 years ago it was.

What does this shift in social norms mean for the health of children who are showing increased body weight and crossing high percentiles on a growth curve? Weigh in on the information contained in this study and then perhaps share it with parents of overweight patients and see if it can’t help them realize that their child’s increasing BMI over time really is a problem.

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