Home environment is strongest determinant of childhood obesity
MedWire News: The home environment is more important than neighborhood influences in determining children’s body weight and physical activity, Australian research reveals.
The new data from the Children Living in Active Neighborhoods (CLAN) study suggest that public health interventions targeting children should focus on parental role modeling and parental support, say David Crawford (Deakin University, Burwood, Victoria) and co-authors.
The study involved a random sample of 301 children aged 10–12 years at recruitment who were assessed three times between 2001 and 2006. Crawford’s team used the data to assess longitudinal associations among home and neighborhood environment and the children’s anthropmetric measures and levels of physical activity.
The analysis, which is published in the International Journal of Obesity, found that between 2001 and 2006 the childrens’ average body mass index (BMI) increased while levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) decreased.
The changes in BMI and MVPA over the study period were statistically significant and occurred in both boys and girls. The greatest changes occurred between 2004 and 2006 when the children were teenagers, the researchers note.
In a multivariate analysis, variables associated with the home environment were more commonly associated with children’s MVPA than were neighborhood factors.
For instance, among boys, maternal education and perceived heavy local traffic were inversely associated with MVPA, while maternal role modelling of MVPA, sibling physical activity, and road connectivity were positively associated with MVPA.
Meanwhile, among girls, number of siblings, paternal role modelling of MVPA, the number of rules related to physical activity, and parental co-participation in physical activity were significant positive predictors of MVPA.
A similar pattern was seen for children’s BMI, with home factors again being more commonly associated with BMI than neighbourhood factors.
Crawford’s team concludes: “Interventions to promote physical activity and prevent unhealthy weight gain among children and adolescents may need to focus more strongly on family influences, such as parental role modelling, rules around sedentary and active pursuits, and support for physical activity.”
They add: “Intervention studies to investigate the efficacy and effectiveness of such strategies are warranted.”
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By Joanna Lyford