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Using narrative messages to improve parents' experience of learning that a child has overweight

02 October 2020
24 min read
Volume 1 · Issue 5



Providing feedback to parents that their child has overweight often elicits negative reactance.


To investigate the acceptability and feasibility of providing theoretically-informed narrative messages to reduce negative reactance, alongside the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) feedback informing parents when their child has overweight.


A mixed-methods design: interviews with parents of primary school-aged children explored responses to the narratives; a pilot randomised trial examined the feasibility, acceptability and promise of enclosing narratives with NCMP feedback.


Interview participants found the narratives acceptable and indicated they could help lessen negative reactance. Pilot study data suggested 65% of parents could identify with the characters, with evidence of elaboration (applying the story to one's own situation) evident in 47% of those reading the accounts.

Although the journal's standard house style is to use the word ‘overweight’ as an adjective to avoid confusing it with a condition, considering the theme of the article and in line with the authors' wishes to try and reduce weight bias, overweight will be used as a noun in this article.

Childhood overweight and obesity are a public health concern in many countries, with prevalence rates among school-aged children of approximately 25% in European countries and 30% in North America (Wang and Lim, 2012). These high rates are of concern as having overweight or obesity as a child is a strong predictor of having overweight/obesity in adulthood, which in turn puts people at higher risk of non-communicable diseases (such as type 2 diabetes) and social disadvantage from the stigma associated with overweight (Herman et al, 2009; Reilly and Kelly, 2010).

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