Despite the high prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity enrolment to weight management programs remains difficult, time consuming, costly and has limited effectiveness. Previous studies explored barrier to recruitment into children’s weight management programs but only a few have explored the issue from the perspective of the parent or applied a theoretical framework to describing the decision to enrol in a weight management program. The aim of this paper was to understand what factors influence parental decision to enrol in the Parenting, Eating and Activity for Child Health Program, a program for childhood obesity management.
Semi-structured qualitative telephone interviews were undertaken with 21 enrolees in a childhood obesity management program. Questions were based on Theory of Planned Behaviour.
Parents tended to be aware of the child’s weight issue prior to deciding to enrol in the program. Theory of Planned Behaviour was inadequate in explaining the decision to enrol because parents had attempted to address their child’s weight issue themselves and had sought help from a number of people including health professionals. The participants’ decision to enrol in the program was influenced by the evaluation of their previous attempts and their child’s emotional state.
Health professionals should use opportunities during their contact with parents to raise child’s weight issue and to provide support and encouragement so that parents seek help from programs before reaching point of despair.