Background

Family-based therapies are the gold standard of childhood obesity treatment, yet little is known about how information gathered by one parent from a healthcare provider is translated to the home for lifestyle changes. We assessed how families of children and adolescents with overweight and obesity communicate information received from their pediatrician to family members not present at the clinical visit regarding weight and weight management.

Methods

Parent-child dyads (N=112) were surveyed from four general pediatric clinics and completed the McMaster’s Family Assessment Device Communication Subscale (FADc) and questions describing the communication of weight and weight-management with family members. Descriptive statistics were used to describe communication practices. We used separate logistic regression models to assess the association of communication practices with parent-reported FADc, child BMI z-score, child sex, parent BMI, household income, and site.

Results

A small majority of parents discuss with other family members in the home: their child’s weight (60.4%) or their child’s weight management discussions with the pediatrician (57.9%). Mean parent FADc score was 2.06 (SD 2.24). The most common barrier to weight-related conversations was disagreeing with what the pediatrician said (35.7%) and the most common facilitator was understanding what the pediatrician said (95.1%). Higher FADc score (worse communication) was associated with whether parents ask their partner’s opinion about weight information received from their child’s pediatrician (OR 0.22 [95% CI 0.05, 0.99]) and higher income was associated with many healthy weight communication practices.

Conclusions

A small majority of parents discuss with family members what their pediatrician said regarding their child’s weight. More effort must be placed on aiding parents in relaying information from the pediatrician to other family members in the home to encourage family lifestyle changes and alleviate childhood obesity.