ESPE Abstracts (2015) 84 P-3-880

Healthcare Professionals' Perception of Overweight in Preschool-aged Children

Gianni Boccaa, Eva Corpeleijnb, Jasper Broensa, Ronald Stolkb & Pieter Sauera


aDepartment of Pediatrics, Beatrix Children’s Hospital, University Medical Center Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands; bDepartment of Epidemiology, University Medical Center Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands


Background: Childhood obesity is still increasing worldwide. Early recognition of overweight or obesity in children by healthcare professionals is of utmost importance, allowing interventions to start at a young age.

Objective and hypotheses: We studied whether healthcare professionals adequately perceive preschool children’s overweight and whether this is influenced by their own BMI.

Method: Healthcare professionals received a questionnaire containing pictures and sketches of seven preschool children with body weights ranging from underweight to morbidly obese. The professionals rated the pictures on a five-point scale from ‘too heavy’ to ‘too light’. Concurrently, at each picture, healthcare professionals assigned one from sevne sketches most adequately depicting the child’s body shape. Healthcare professionals’ height and weight were self-reported and BMI was calculated. Groups were made based on quartiles: low (Q1), average (Q2 and Q3), or high BMI (Q4).

Results: Of the 716 questionnaires, 353 (49.3%) were returned and 346 (48.3%) were used for analysis. Healthcare professionals most often chose sketches lighter than the correct one. Depending on the healthcare professionals’ BMI group, the overweight child was perceived as ‘normal weight’ by 74–79% of the healthcare professionals. The obese children were rated correctly by 44–52% of the healthcare professionals, but as ‘normal weight’ by 14–15% of them. The morbidly obese child was adequately assessed by 93–98% of the professionals. Healthcare professionals in the lowest BMI group less frequently perceived the underweight child as too light, compared to professionals in the average BMI group (P=0.01).

Conclusion: Independently of their own BMI, healthcare professionals are unlikely to adequately perceive overweight in preschool-aged children. The lack of identifying overweight or obese children may hinder early intervention.

Funding: The study was sponsored by an unrestricted grant from Hutchison Whampoa Limited, Hong Kong. The study sponsor had no role in i) the study design and conduct; ii) the collection, management, analysis and interpretation of the data; iii) writing the abstract; and vi) the decision to submit the abstract.

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