Childhood Obesity

A new study at Columbia University suggests that giving mothers plain facts about the health risks of consuming sugary drinks; during pregnancy and early childhood may offer a new strategy to reduce childhood obesity. The study in the journal Academic Pediatrics. Obesity affects approximately 18 percent of children in the U.S. Recent studies show that obesity is growing fastest among young children between the ages of 2 to 5 years.
But a recent study found that sugary drinks may be marketed more heavily toward low-income children and teens. So in a previous study, Woo Baidal and her team found that nearly 90 % of parents and 66 percent of infants between 1 and 2 years old who enrolled in a local Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program; a nutritional supplementation program for low-income families, regularly consumed sweetened beverages. Families with more negative attitudes toward sugary beverages were less likely to drink them or give them to their infants.
They surprised at how many parents and infants regularly consuming drinks with added sugar. But in order to influence behavior, they needed a better understanding of the factors that influence parents’ attitudes. So in the current study, the researchers conducted in-depth interviews with 25 of the WIC-enrolled families from the previous study.

The public health campaigns

Families asked to respond to a variety of materials from public health campaigns and other interventions; including written messages and visual aids, about the sugar content and health risks of sugar-sweetened drinks. Many families confused about which beverages are healthy, the researchers found, and surprised to learn that many juices and flavored milks contain large amounts of sugar.

Therefore families more receptive toward materials especially images and graphic warning labels explaining the sugar content of different beverages and the health risks they pose for children. They indicated the need to include information about culturally relevant drinks and other alternatives to plain water. In contrast, families less responsive toward materials that advised parents what to consume without giving them facts so they could make their own informed decisions.

Parents unreceptive to finger-wagging messages about what they should buy or drink; but most welcomed information that would help them make healthy choices for themselves and their families. “Although our study was small, our findings could inform broader strategies to counter the mixed messages that many low-income families get about what’s healthy and what’s not.”The researchers plan to conduct a larger; randomized study to learn how different ways of presenting information about the health risks of sugary drinks affects families’ purchasing habits and consumption.