Parental knowledge, attitudes and practices regarding overweight among preschool children in rural Zimbabwe
Parents have significant influence in the development of children’s eating behaviour and food choices. Their knowledge and attitudes towards nutritional status play an important part in childhood growth, as parents become role models in shaping children’s eating habits. The aim of this study was to assess parental knowledge and attitudes towards childhood nutritional status and evaluate the relationship between eating habits, knowledge and attitudes of parents. A cross-sectional study was conducted in five districts of Mashonaland East Province of Zimbabwe. A total of 241 parents of preschool children were selected using multi-stage sampling technique. Questionnaires were administered to parents who gathered at the selected primary schools in the Districts. Data was analysed using SPSS version 16 (2007) and MS Excel. Spearman’s Coefficient Correlation at a 95% significance level was used to measure the strength of linear association between knowledge and attitude score as well as education level, gender and food consumption scores. Results showed that parents in Mashonaland East Province of Zimbabwe had a poor to moderate nutrition knowledge and understanding of the causes of overweight among preschool children. There was a significant association between education level of parents and nutrition knowledge scores attained (p = 0.028). Food consumption score was significantly associated with knowledge score (p = 0.008). Furthermore, 0.4% of the parents with good nutrition knowledge had acceptable food consumption scores. This study showed that most parents (83.4%) were knowledgeable about the concept of a balanced diet. However, this was not translated into practice as 72% of the parents had poor to borderline food consumption score. Nutrition gaps identified in this study included failure by parents to link skipping breakfast to overweight among children and that exclusive breast feeding contributes to weight reduction. Parents did not acknowledge that eating at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables is beneficial in maintaining healthy body weight and that being overweight is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes mellitus. The results further demonstrated that parents in the province require additional nutrition knowledge to help curb overweight among preschool children by giving appropriate nutritious foods.
Keywords: Parents, children, knowledge, attitude, food consumption score, weight, nutritional status
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