Date of Award

5-2008

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Food Science and Human Nutrition

Advisor

Adrienne A. White

Second Committee Member

Susan Sullivan

Third Committee Member

Kathryn Yerxa

Abstract

Prevention of childhood overweight is a national health priority. The objectives of this research were to assess parents' (n=21; mean age=29.6±6.6 years) reports of children's average time of active playtime and television viewing, reports of parent behavior to facilitate children's active play and reports of factors affecting their children's physical activity, and to compare differences between the control and intervention groups. The goal for this primarily white (95.2%), female (95.2%) sample was to increase parents' involvement in their children's playtime with the ultimate goal of decreasing childhood overweight. Subjects completed a 48-item pre and post questionnaire. The intervention consisted of two 45-minute physical activity playgroups and one educational mailing over a four month period. The study was conducted at the Bangor, Maine, office of the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). At pre-assessment for the total group of parents (n=21), weather was cited as the leading barrier (90.5%) to their children actively playing outdoors. Parents reported over four times the mean minutes/day of indoor play (366±134) than outdoor play (90±69). Of the time children played indoors, parents reported playing with them 66% of the time. Parents reported their children watched a mean of 2 hours and 17 minutes of television per day, more than the < 2 hours recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. From pre- to post- assessment, parents in the control group reported a decrease in both their children's indoor active play (p=0.001) and the number of minutes they played with their children indoors (p=0.014) from pre- to post assessment. Parents in the intervention group reported that their children maintained their minutes of indoor active play and that they increased the amount of time they played with their children outdoors (p=0.008) from pre-to post- assessment. Outdoor play, a strong correlate of physical activity in children, increased significantly in both the control (p=0.026) and intervention (p=0.003) groups from pre- to post- assessment. When comparing the control and intervention groups, the intervention group both at pre (p=0.047) and at post (p=0.041) reported their children viewed less television per day than the control group. While a small intervention study, there were positive findings, which are noteworthy and potentially reproducible. To increase the impact of the intervention, it is recommended that the parent-child physical activity playgroup model used in this study be applied by trained facilitators at other WIC offices, childcare facilities and preschools. The best intervention for childhood overweight is prevention. Intervening early with parents and their children with programs such as WIC Wonder Kids may contribute to decreasing the incidence of overweight in children, leading to long-term health benefits.

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