Parent Perceptions of Childhood Health and Nutrition and Their Role in the Home Food Environment in Hays County, Texas
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Background: Numerous quantitative studies have attributed the increase in childhood overweight and obesity the built environment, low socioeconomic status, sedentary behavior, or any combination of the three. Concurrently, qualitative information, including assessments of parents' perspectives of their roles relating to child health and nutrition generally, and child overweight and obesity specifically, is often lacking. The purpose of this research was to add to the existing literature by offering such a qualitative perspective. Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with parents living in Hays County, Texas. Participation was limited to parents with children between the ages 5 and 10 years. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and analyzed through content analysis. Results: Analysis of interview texts suggested that parents in this study had similar understandings of health and nutrition, generally lacked specific knowledge of overweight and obesity, and agreed it is the responsibility of parents to provide for and influence the food choices of their children. Mothers agreed that time, monetary expense, and children's behaviors were seen as barriers to routinely providing a healthy food environment. Among mothers who were successful in living what they perceived to be a healthy lifestyle, planning was essential. Conclusions: Qualitative assessments of parents' perspectives of child health and nutrition are important because they offer additional insight into the current problem of childhood overweight and obesity in the U.S. In turn, these insights may provide valuable information to public health personnel, nutritionists and others as programs are designed to reduce and prevent childhood overweight and obesity.