Childhood Obesity in Chile: the study of feeding practices and styles of parents

Within Latin America, Chile has one of the highest prevalence of obesity. Public health efforts are centered on preventing obesity early in life. Preschool-aged children are developing eating habits that can last up to several years and they are becoming more receptive to their immediate social environment (particularly parents). Parents and children feeding interactions —either parent or child-centered— have been associated with child weight status and most of the research has been conducted in developed countries. Since feeding styles and practices are influenced by culture and context, little is known about the contextual and sociocultural aspects that affect how parents interact with their children during meals and other food-related contexts in Chile and other countries of Latin America. Most of the studies in Chile have focused on school age children and what children eat, but not how parents feed their children in early childhood and its influences. The objective of this study is to explore influences on feeding styles of parents with 3-to-5-year-old children residing in low-income neighborhoods in Santiago, Chile. A convenience sample of parents recruited in child care centers from low-middle income families will be interviewed using photo-elicitation. Understanding why parents feed their children in preschool years the way they do is key for developing culturally relevant programs.  Learning about the sociocultural and context factors behind parents’ feeding patterns may inform further research and ultimately lead to culturally-competent programs to prevent obesity early in life.