Academic journal article Health Sociology Review

Understanding Parental Health Literacy and Food Related Parenting Practices

Academic journal article Health Sociology Review

Understanding Parental Health Literacy and Food Related Parenting Practices

Article excerpt

The topic of children's health has often received much attention, given the recog- nition that the early years of life set the foun- dation for future wellbeing (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare [AIHW], 2009). Good nutrition is important for the maintenance of physical and mental health, and is shown to sup- port the growth and development that occurs throughout childhood (Victora, 2009). Positive dietary behaviours practised at an early age also help to maintain health throughout adulthood and reduce the risk of prevalent lifestyle diseases such as overweight and obesity, which may pose numerous physical and psychosocial threats to the individual (AIHW, 2009).

The Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents in Australia provide dietary rec- ommendations for children aged 4-18 and encourage a nutritious diet enriched with vege- tables, legumes, fruit and cereal (National Health and Medical Research Council [NHMRC], 2003). Despite the recognition that nutritional wellbeing is paramount to the overall health and development of the child, the results of the 2007 Australian national children's nutri- tion and physical activity survey indicated that many Australian children are not meeting the daily recommended intakes for fruits and veg- etables (Department of Health and Ageing [DoHA], 2008). Nowadays, Australian children are consuming a diet that is comprised of more high-energy, nutrient-poor foods, compared to their predecessors (Magnus, Haby, Carter, & Swinburn, 2009). Patterns of increased energy consumption are commonly attributed to the higher consumption of fast foods over time (Popkin, Duffey, & Gordon-Larsen, 2005); increased consumption of high-fat foods away from the home (Drewnowski & Darmon, 2005; Stanton, 2006); increased portion sizes for packaged foods (Krai, Roe, & Rolls, 2004; Young & Nestle, 2002); and the increased cost of healthy eating (John & Ziebland, 2004). Greater exposure to Australian fast food adver- tisements promoting foods high in fat, sugar and salt (Chapman, Nicholas, & Supramaniam, 2006), which encourage children to repetitively 'pester' parents to purchase items (Marshall, O'Donohoe, & Kline, 2007; Nicholls & Cullen, 2004) is arguably an additional factor that may contribute towards an unhealthy diet.

In attempting to deconstruct the purported association between social features of the mod- ern environment and poor dietary patterns, it is therefore necessary to gain a broader under- standing of the interplay between the individual, interpersonal relationships and the environ- ment. Socio-structural factors are a fundamental consideration with regards to children's health, given that health tends to improve with higher socio-economic status (SES) (Glover, Hetzel, Glover, Tennant, & Page, 2006). It is not surprising that differences in dietary patterns across socio-economic groups are evident, with poor behaviours more prevalent amongst chil- dren from low SES communities (O'Dea & Wagstaffi 2011). It may be argued that such dif- ferences merely exist due to individual factors, including low levels of educational attainment and lack of health knowledge. Yet the inter- relationship between SES and diet is complex and it becomes imperative to also consider the broader structural context. For example, it has been suggested that poor dietary choices may be pronounced in environmentally disadvan- taged areas due to factors within the commu- nity nutrition environment (Story, Kaphingst, Robinson-O'Brien, & Glanz, 2008). These may include lack of access to affordable, nutri- tious foods (Macintyre, 2007) or mediating factors such as increased exposure to fast food outlets (Reidpath, Burns, Garrard, Mahoney, & Townsend, 2002).

Lifestyle practices are complex and a multi- tude of factors interact to shape individual dietary patterns. Research emphasises the combined influence of various agents and systems in shap- ing children's health related attitudes and behav- iours, including schools (Drummond, 2010; St Leger, 2001), peers (Drummond, 2010; Paek, Reber, & Lariscy, 2011), the healthcare system (Manganello, 2008) and mass media (Paek et al. …

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