A Parent-Focused Pilot Intervention to Increase Parent Health Literacy and Healthy Lifestyle Choices for Young

AbstractHealth literacy affects caregivers’ ability to engage in preventive health care behaviors for themselves and their children. Studies suggest that health literacy among low-income families needs improvement, and this possibly contributes to disparities in preventive health care rates. Additionally, parents and caregivers may not be able to provide or seek preventive health care for their children because of lack of knowledge and skills to do so effectively. This study designed and piloted an intervention that delivered to parents of young children (1) health literacy information in an experiential manner and (2) practical skills to engage their families in healthy lifestyle choices. Specifically, the intervention focused on diet/nutrition, physical activity, sleep hygiene, parenting, and mental wellness. Postintervention improvements were noted for factual knowledge for diet/nutrition, physical activity, and sleep, beliefs about diet/nutrition, and the relationship between mental health and stress. Additionally, postintervention improvements were noted for general knowledge and beliefs about sleep, knowledge about the relationship between sleep and health, knowledge about common childhood sleep problems, and parents’ bedtime interactions with children. The efficacy of the intervention should be evaluated on a larger, more diverse sample in the future with considerations for multiple health behavior change in the evaluation.

1. IntroductionAlthough some genetic variables may account for obesity, it is one of the most preventable diseases. Health literacy (HL) and preventive care are fundamental in preventing obesity. The Institute of Medicine [1] reported that racial and ethnic minorities, GED certificate recipients, nonnative English speakers, older adults, individuals with below 12th grade education, and individuals with low incomes are more likely to have low HL. Additionally, children whose families meet at least one of these criteria also tend to have low preventive health and be at increased risk for preventable diseases such as obesity and cardiovascular diseases. This study targeted the selective sample of parents with social factors which make them susceptible to having lower HL and making fewer healthy lifestyle choices for their children. The goal of this study was to develop and pilot an HL intervention for underserved families with young children by targeting barriers to preventive health such as education and financial resources and providing hands-on tools for promoting preventive health.

Insufficient HL poses many barriers to the prevention of obesity among children since it may lead to improper diet/nutrition, inadequate physical activity (PA), and misidentification of weight status [2–5]. Conversely, higher parental HL and overall literacy is related to healthy diet/nutrition and lower prevalence of overweight children [5, 6]. Barriers to healthy diet/nutrition include lack of knowledge, training, and experience in preparing, buying, and introducing healthier foods to children, as well as inadequate support from family members [7]. Parental behaviors and attitudes toward diet/nutrition, weight status, sedentary activity (SA), PA, and parents’ and children’s eating habits are also major targetable areas

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