Tuesday, August 25, 2015
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines low health literacy as a limited ability to understand, communicate and apply basic health information to improving one's health. Latest research has brought to light that parents’ health literacy affects the choice of weight loss approaches for their children.
Published in the journal Appetite, the study involved 500 parents of preschool-aged children. The health literacy of parents was assessed by their interpretation of nutrition information on the food label of an ice cream. The parents’ preferred sources of weight control information and strategies for weight loss in children were also determined.
Interestingly, from a list of recommended, neutral and unsafe weight control strategies, parents with higher health literacy selected the recommended strategies. Quite the reverse, one-third of parents with low health literacy did not select any of the recommended practices and nearly 3% of them considered using unsafe techniques like laxatives or diet pills.
Most parents prefer doctors, nurses and nutritionists as primary sources for weight-control information. However, parents with low health literacy were more likely to seek advice from clergy members whereas those with high health literacy turned to books and websites.
In the light of these findings, lead investigator Janet Liechty suggests, "If a healthcare provider counsels parents that their child is overweight or obese and some behaviour changes are needed, we need to do a more careful job of monitoring what the parent actually hears and does with that recommendation. If parents tend toward unhealthy or ineffective methods, we need to make it easier for them to learn about recommended strategies that are safe and effective, and provide access to user-friendly resources."
Since websites of governmental health agencies (with information on weight control) and comprehensive, multidisciplinary treatment programmes may be inaccessible, unavailable or unaffordable for some parents who need them, healthcare professionals must effectively communicate current recommendations governing weight loss to parents seeking weight control strategies for their children.
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