"A significant number of women believed that their children were normal weight when they were, in fact, overweight," said lead study author Elena Fuentes-Afflick, MD, MPH, UCSF associate professor of pediatrics and a pediatrician at San Francisco General Hospital. "However, if the mother described her child as overweight, she was usually correct, but it is concerning that many mothers did not perceive their overweight children as being overweight."
The study findings were presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting today (April 29) in San Francisco. Fuentes-Afflick said the study has implications for the effort to stem the tide of pediatric obesity, which has reached epidemic proportions in the United States.
"It's not just Latino parents. As a pediatrician, when you start to talk to parents about their child's weight or body mass, you have to ask: How much and what are children eating? How much TV are they watching? It's especially challenging to talk about these issues with respect to young children because parents are largely responsible for their children's dietary habits.
"If there is a mismatch between what the pediatrician and the mother think is a healthy weight, how do we, as pediatricians, clearly and effectively communicate information about the child's weight to the mother and other family members?" Fuentes-Afflick said.
The study analyzed data from patient interviews conducted for the Latino Health Project, a prospective study of Latina women who were recruited during pregnancy and interviewed annually. The study included 194 women and children who were interviewed in 2000-03, three years after recruitment.