Graduation Year

2009

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.S.P.H.

Degree Granting Department

Community and Family Health

Major Professor

Rita Debate, Ph.D.

Keywords

Adolescent, Obesity, Nutrition, Physical activity, Parent modeling

Abstract

In response to the growing child and adolescent obesity epidemic, some states and local school authorities are mandating the measurement of Body Mass Index (BMI). However, there is limited research addressing whether schools are an appropriate setting and the intended as well as unintended effects of sharing this information with parents. Furthermore, there is yet to be conclusive evidence that shows that BMI screening in the school setting is an effective way to improve student BMI status. Therefore, the purpose of this research study was to explore the effects of BMI Health Report Card Letters among 6th grade students and their parents by applying a Social Cognitive Theory conceptual framework. A non-experimental, post - test only study design involving child/parent dyads was employed to answer the proposed research questions. Quantitative data were gathered from students and parents using separate theory based questionnaires.

Key results include a statistically significant difference between delivery methods (mail vs. backpack) for the number parents who confirmed receiving the BMI letter (p = .001) and reading the BMI letter (p = .005). Additionally, there were statistically significant differences between parents based on child BMI categories. Specifically, a greater number of parents of children "at risk of overweight" or "overweight" took one or more action to control their child's weight associated with food restriction (p = .005) and physical activity (p<.001) and reported greater parental concern about child's weight (p = .001) and parental modeling of negative talk /behaviors (p = .019). Parents of children of "normal weight" reported greater perceived importance of child nutrition behaviors (p = .026). Results indicate the importance of mailing BMI Health Report Card Letters as well as the occurrence of unintended negative consequences.

Implications include the need for tailored BMI letters, based on child weight status, which include information and resources to increase parent's capacity to share BMI information with their child as well as make healthy changes in the home.

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