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Parent perspectives on preschoolers’ movement and dietary behaviours: A qualitative study in Soweto, South Africa

Klingberg, S.
van Sluijs, E.M.
Draper, C.E.
Objective: Childhood obesity is of increasing concern in South Africa, and interventions to promote healthy behaviours related to obesity in children are needed. Young children in urban low-income settings are particularly at risk of excess adiposity. The current study aimed to describe how parents of preschool children in an urban South African township view children's movement and dietary behaviours, and associated barriers and facilitators. Design: A contextualist qualitative design was utilised with in-depth interviews conducted in the home setting and analysed using reflexive thematic analysis. Field notes were used to contextualise findings. Setting: Four neighbourhoods in a predominantly low-income urban township. Participants: Sixteen parents (fourteen mothers, two fathers) of preschool-age children were recruited via preschools. Results: Four themes were developed: children's autonomy and the limits of parental control; balancing trust and fears; the appeal of screens; and aspirations and pressures of parenthood. Barriers to healthy behaviours included children's food preferences, aspirations and pressures to consume unhealthy foods, other adults giving children snacks, lack of safe places to play, unhealthy food environments and underlying structural factors. Facilitators included set routines, the preschool environment, safe places to play and availability of healthy foods. Conclusions: Low-income families in Soweto face many structural challenges that cannot easily be addressed through public health interventions, but there may be opportunities for behavioural interventions targeting interpersonal and organisational aspects, such as bedtime routines and preschool snacks, to achieve positive changes. More research on preschoolers' movement and dietary behaviours, and related interventions, is needed in South Africa.
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Childhood obesity,Health behaviours,Low- and middle-income countries,Parents,Preschoolers,Qualitative research,South Africa,SDG-03 Good health and well-being
Klingberg S, van Sluijs EM, Draper CE. Parent perspectives on preschoolers' movement and dietary behaviours: a qualitative study in Soweto, South Africa. Public Health Nutr. 2021 Aug;24(12):3637-3647. doi: 10.1017/S1368980020003730.
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