Child and parental perspectives on diet and physical activity decisions: Implications for childhood obesity prevention in China

Youfa Wang, Alice Fang Yan, Xinyu Shi, Huijun Wang, Zhiyong Wang, Joel Gittelsohn, Fei Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background and Objectives: Obesity has become a global epidemic. In China, 42% of adults and about onefifth of children are overweight or obese. In major cities, about one-third of boys are overweight or obese. This study aimed to understand how children and parents in China make eating and physical activity (PA) decisions, considering individual, family, community, social, and environmental factors, and to collect parents' recommendations for interventions to promote healthy eating and physical activity. Methods and Study Design: Children (n=41, aged 10-15 years) and their parents (n=41) participated in eight semi-structured focus groups (FGs) in Beijing (in North China) and Nanjing (South China). Each site conducted two FGs with children and two FGs with parents. A framework analysis of FG data was conducted with NVivo. Results: Three main themes were identified: Children chose food based on flavor, and consumption of unhealthy snacks was prevalent; there were inconsistent standards and practices of school lunch services across schools; students had limited PA time due to academic demand. Students favored high-calorie snacks over fruits or vegetables. Students' and parents' perceptions of school lunch services varied among schools in terms of operation, price, quality, nutritious options, and food taste. Most students reported enjoying PA but spent little time in PA, due to study burdens. Parents made recommendations for improving school food services and increasing PA during and after school. Conclusions: These findings will help develop family- and school-targeted health promotion interventions. Intervention framing must consider the unique Chinese social and cultural context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)888-898
Number of pages11
JournalAsia Pacific journal of clinical nutrition
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2017


  • Childhood obesity
  • Focus group study
  • Nutrition
  • Physical activity
  • School lunch

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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