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Health Promot J Austr. 2007 Aug;18(2):149-54.

Early childhood sector staff perceptions of child overweight and obesity: the Weight of Opinion Study.

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NSW Centre for Overweight and Obesity, School of Public Health, University of Sydney, New South Wales.



The perceptions of staff from the early childhood sector in New South Wales (NSW) regarding issues related to childhood overweight and obesity were examined.


Eight pre-schools and long day care centres were recruited from suburbs of diverse socio-economic backgrounds in three metropolitan and one rural area in NSW. Centre directors and staff participated in in-depth interviews and a thematic analysis of their responses was performed.


Early childhood staff were both aware of and concerned about overweight among children, and felt that encouraging healthy eating and active play were part of their core responsibilities. They worked closely in partnership with parents, had several programs and policies in place, and identified a range of educational resources and professional development opportunities that they would find helpful, including how to discourage parents from sending unhealthy foods with their child and whether/how to raise their concerns about a child's weight with parents. However, staff also realised that their role was constrained by external factors, including social and commercial pressures.


The development and dissemination of the suggested educational resources and professional development opportunities would support early childhood staff in promoting healthy eating and active play and working with parents. Developing national guidelines on the appropriate amount of physical activity/active play for children under five years, and resources to support those guidelines, is one important area for intervention.

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