Childhood obesity is a major public health concern with serious implications for the sustainability of healthcare systems. Studies in the US and UK have shown that ethnicity is consistently associated with childhood obesity, with Black African origin girls in particular being more vulnerable to overweight and obesity than their White peers. Little is known, however, about what promotes or hinders engagement with prevention programmes among ethnic minority children.
This paper describes the background and design of an exploratory study conducted in London, UK. The aim of the study was to assess the feasibility, efficacy and cultural acceptability of child- and family-based interventions to reduce risk factors for childhood and adolescent obesity among ethnic minorities. It investigated the use of a population approach (in schools) and a targeted approach (in places of worship). We used a mixture of focus group discussions, in-depth interviews and structured questionnaires to explore what children, parents, grandparents, teachers and religious leaders think hinder and promote engagement with healthy eating and active living choices. We assessed the cultural appropriateness of validated measures of physical activity, dietary behaviour and self efficacy, and of potential elements of interventions informed by the data collected. We are also currently assessing the potential for wider community support (local councils, community networks, faith forums etc) of the intervention.
Analysis of the data is ongoing but the emergent findings suggest that while the school setting may be better for the main implementation of healthy lifestyle interventions, places of worship provide valuable opportunities for family and culturally specific support for implementation. Tackling the rise in childhood and adolescent obesity is a policy priority, as reflected in a range of government initiatives. The study will enhance such policy by developing the evidence base about culturally acceptable interventions to reduce the risk of obesity in children.