Schools are a target for childhood obesity prevention strategies, yet intervention effectiveness may be hindered by limited capacity within school communities to address the problem. We describe a case study with a sample of schools within Victoria, Australia where obesity prevalence was relatively high, to understand perceptions and preparedness to address childhood obesity.
Anthropometric (height and weight) and self-report weight status were collected from 11-14 year old students (N=339 of 765; RR 45%) recruited from 42 schools in Victoria, Australia. Self-reported weight status was collected at the same time as measurement. Community readiness to address childhood obesity survey data were collected from staff (N=114) at participating schools with an emphasis on the readiness of the school community to address obesity. Objective versus self-report children’s weight status were compared. School readiness data were scored and descriptive analyses conducted.
Objective anthropometric data recorded forty-one percent of student participants as overweight or obese. Thirty-eight percent of students underreported their weight status, 17% of which were overweight or obese. School communities were generally concerned about the problem of childhood obesity, yet varied in their stage of readiness to take action. Perceptions of prevalence, promotion through education, and community engagement were prominent themes.
Perceptions of childhood obesity prevalence may hinder prevention strategies. Childhood obesity efforts require a broader community approach beyond the school environment.