A new website has been launched to help raise awareness about childhood obesity, including ways to tackle it and an opportunity for parents and healthcare professionals to give their views on the matter to researchers.

The website can be found on the University of Nottingham’s website (Click here for a link.)

The website follows a study investigating the prevention of childhood overweight and obesity led by a team of researchers from the University of Nottingham.

While one-quarter of babies gain weight more rapidly than they should during the first four months of their lives, researchers say this factor has been linked to a greater risk of babies developing childhood obesity.

“We are keen to hear parents’ opinions about whether or not healthcare professionals should be trying to prevent childhood obesity by identifying babies who may be at risk,” said Sarah Redsell, Principal Research Fellow in The University of Nottingham’s School of Nursing and Midwifery and a Registered Health Visitor.

The website launches amid an epidemic of childhood obesity, which has more than tripled in the past 30 years. More than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese in 2008, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Parents Views Revealed

The Early Prediction and Prevention of Obesity during Childhood (EPPOC) research team held focus groups across Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire and speaking to 38 parents about their babies size, growth and feeding as well as a survey between 116 healthcare professionals such as GPs, practice nurses, health visitors and nursery and community nurses working in Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire.

The views of parents revealed some not so shocking yet interesting results.

While some parents had concerns over whether breast milk was sufficient for their child’s contentment and growth and were confused over when to start weaning them off, others felt larger or chubbier babies were more desirable and some parents believed that when babies cry it almost always indicates hunger and did not consider alternative explanations for their babies’ distress.

But parents seemed uncertain about whether or not and how healthcare professionals should tackle childhood obesity before it happens when they see signs of early development in babies.

The parents involved in the focus groups advised better guidance on how to determine and prepare healthy foods and how to keep their babies physically active.

They also highlighted that additional advice could be used to help parents understand physiology of breast feeding and when to stop.

Interviews between 12 GPs and six practice nurses revealed that they believed that healthcare professionals should advise parents on how to feed their babies and how to prevent obesity.

As parents often think their child is hungry when he or she cries, the focus group suggest that advice on how to differentiate between babies crying because they are hungry and other causes of distress.

The authors explained that both the survey and interviews combined highlighted the need for healthcare professionals to be more knowledgeable about the early signs of childhood obesity and that advice to parents needs to be more consistent.