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To describe public health nurses’ (PHN) experiences of referring to, and families’ experiences of being referred to, a multicomponent, community-based, childhood weight management programme and to provide insight into families’ motivation to participate in and complete treatment.
Qualitative study using semi-structured interviews and the draw-and-write technique.
Two geographical regions in the south and west of Ireland.
Nine PHN involved in the referral process, as well as ten parents and nine children who were referred to and completed the programme, participated in the present study.
PHN were afraid of misclassifying children as obese and of approaching the subject of excess weight with parents. Peer support from other PHN as well as training in how best to talk about weight with parents were potential strategies suggested to alleviate these fears. Parents recalled the anxiety provoked by the ‘medical terminology’ used during referral and their difficulty interpreting what it meant for the health of their child. Despite initial fears, concern for their children’s future health was a major driver behind their participation. Children’s enjoyment, the social support experienced by parents as well as staff enthusiasm were key to programme completion.
The present study identifies the difficulties of referring families to community weight management programmes and provides practical suggestions on how to support practitioners in making referrals. It also identifies key positive factors influencing parents’ decisions to enrol in community weight management programmes. These should be maximised by staff and policy makers when developing similar programmes.
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