Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr. Marilyn Gardner (Director), Richard Wilson, Dr. Cecilia Watkins

Degree Program

Department of Public Health

Degree Type

Master of Public Health


Pediatric overweight is of paramount importance in Kentucky, as studies show prevalence rates are higher in the state than the national average. Research suggests that comprehensive treatments involving diet training, exercise training, and psychological counseling are most effective at reducing overweight in children. Little research has been done, however, to compare parents' and physicians' perceptions of obesity, its treatment, or barriers to weight management.

The purpose of this study is to examine differences in attitudes toward pediatric obesity and weight management among parents and physicians, specifically related to the importance of diet training, exercise training, and psychological counseling. Surveys were sent to a population of pediatricians and family practitioners serving pediatric patients in the ten-county Barren River Area Development District of south-central Kentucky and to a convenience sample of 160 parents, identified when they brought their child(ren) to a physician for an office visit.

Data were analyzed 1) descriptively and 2) inferentially to test hypotheses. Frequencies and measures of central tendency were conducted on categorical and continuous data. A series of t-tests were conducted at a 95% confidence interval to determine if differences existed between parents and physicians concerning the importance of 1) diet training, 2) exercise training, or 3) psychological counseling to pediatric weight control.

Results showed a 42.9% prevalence of overweight among the children of sampled parents. Results also showed that physicians rated the three treatment modalities under study as significantly more important than did parents. Additionally, parents and physicians identified different barriers to the successful treatment of child overweight. While physicians felt child and family adherence issues presented the largest barriers, parents cited cost and self-esteem concerns as larger barriers to pediatric weight management.

This study has many public health implications, including potential benefits from awareness efforts and educational training related to the identification of child overweight and the importance of a comprehensive treatment strategy. Additionally, physicians who are aware of parents' concerns related to finances and their child's self-esteem might be able to tailor their educational efforts to address those concerns, thus increasing treatment adherence.


Pediatrics | Public Health