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Reflecting on parental insights into healthy lifestyles: a qualitative study

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>30/11/2023
<mark>Journal</mark>The Lancet
Issue numberSuppl 1
Pages (from-to)S85
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Children living in the most deprived regions are more than twice as likely as their affluent peers to be obese. One way we can explain the social gradient of health (determined by relative position on the scale of social disadvantage or advantage) is by identifying the barriers and drivers to health that different groups of people experience. This study explored the understanding and perceptions of (and barriers and drivers to) a healthy lifestyle to investigate how commissioned services can better support residents to enable behaviour change in an area of high social deprivation. This community engagement activity was also conducted to inform commissioning decisions in children's public health services. We used a qualitative study design with a semi-structured interview schedule. Four focus groups (5-8 participants, n=26) were conducted in an area of high deprivation in northwest England. Parents or carers were invited to attend anonymously by the Public Health Community Engagement Officer (in June 2022). The inclusion criteria were previous attendance on a weight management programme. Data were analysed using thematic analysis. Engagement activities do not require ethics approval. All participants provided written informed consent to take part. No further information was collected about personal characteristics. The study participants demonstrated an awareness and understanding of factors affecting child and family health and health behaviours: healthy eating, exercise, mental health and emotional wellbeing, family values and attitudes towards a healthy lifestyle, cooking and budgeting, wider social connections, access to open spaces, availability of local activities, costs (including hidden costs), and structural barriers. Using the finding that participants recognise barriers and drivers to behaviour change beyond knowledge and skills, we reflect on why there was no take up for a commissioned intervention that aimed to address childhood obesity in the Lancashire area. These reflections inform arguments for an alternative model of service commission that relies less on established randomised trial evidence base and more on participatory codesign and a place-based approach (working with populations' existing knowledge and skills) and is particularly sensitive to people's own perception of the specific drivers and barriers they experience to behaviour change. Limitations include sampling from an area with low diversity and selection of participants who have previously agreed to uptake a weight management intervention. None. [Abstract copyright: Copyright © 2023 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.]