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Parents’ experiences of seeking health care for their children who are overweight or obese Ahmed, Brigitte

Abstract

As the prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity increases, more parents will likely look to health care providers for information, support, guidance and referral to appropriate services to help them manage their children's overweight condition. Little is known about parents' experiences of having overweight children and their interactions and experiences with Canadian health care professionals. This study addresses a gap in the literature. Awareness of parental experiences is an important aspect of childhood obesity prevention and treatment. Using interpretive description as the methodology for this study, ten parents were interviewed about their experiences of seeking health care for a child who was overweight or obese. Parents' experiences with nurses, physicians and dietitians, were reported. Interviews were audio taped, transcribed and the transcripts served as the source documents for the study. Inductive logic was used throughout the data collection and analytic process. Findings from this study revealed that parents weighed a number of number factors before seeking professional help. They reported a high level of dissatisfaction with health care providers' services and a lack of resources and supports in the community. Parents entered consultations with doctors, dietitians and nurses with knowledge about nutrition and exercise that, for the most part, was not augmented by their encounters with health care providers. Advice tended to be simplistic and did not take into account the challenges faced by parents in enacting this advice in the context of the family. Concerns about damage to children's self esteem resulting from treatment strategies and victimization by peers, family members and others ranked high among parental concerns. As health care experts look for ways to control the growing epidemic of childhood obesity, knowledge of parents' experiences with seeking and receiving help to manage their children's weight may provide important information to consider in the planning and delivery of nursing and other health care services.

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