Nowicka P, Ek A, Jurca-Simina IE, Bouzas C, Argelich E, Nordin K, García S, Vasquez Barquero MY, Hoffer U, Reijs Richards H, Tur JA, Chirita-Emandi A, Eli K
BMC Public Health 22 (1) 1000 [2022-05-17; online 2022-05-17]
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed children's eating and physical activity behaviours. These changes have been positive for some households and negative for others, revealing health inequalities that have ramifications for childhood obesity. This study investigates the pandemic's impact on families of children aged 2-6 years with overweight or obesity. Drawing on interviews conducted as part of a randomised controlled trial (RCT) for childhood obesity, thematic analysis was used to examine how parents of pre-schoolers perceived changes in their eating, screentime and physical activity behaviours between the first and second waves of Covid-19. Parents (n = 70, representing 68 families) were interviewed twice during a period of 6 months in three countries with markedly different pandemic policies - Sweden, Romania, and Spain. The analysis is informed by Bronfenbrenner's ecological systems theory, which embeds home- and school-based influences within societal and policy contexts. The findings show that, although all participants were recruited from an RCT for families of children with excess weight, they reported different responses to the pandemic's second wave, with some children engaging in healthier eating and physical activity, and others engaging in comfort eating and a more sedentary lifestyle. Differences in children's obesity-related behaviours were closely related to differences in parents' practices, which were, in turn, linked to their emotional and social wellbeing. Notably, across all sites, parents' feeding and physical activity facilitation practices, as well as their emotional and social wellbeing, were embedded in household resilience. In resilient households, where parents had secure housing and employment, they were better able to adapt to the challenges posed by the pandemic, whereas parents who experienced household insecurity found it more difficult to cope. As the Covid-19 pandemic is turning into a long-term public health challenge, studies that address household resilience are crucial for developing effective prevention and treatment responses to childhood obesity.