Parental socioeconomic status and change in physical activity among children attending a family-based obesity treatment program
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Background: Physical activity is associated with health and a normal weight status and is therefore recommended in childhood obesity treatment. To produce more effective treatment for obese children, there is a need to investigate how social factors affect the outcome of these treatments. Children with low parental socioeconomic status (SES) are particularly at high risk for being obese and having a sedentary lifestyle. The impact of socioeconomic status in the treatment of obese children in general, and particular regarding physical activity, is however not known. Objective: The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of parental socioeconomic status on change in physical activity among obese children during participation in a familybased treatment program at St. Olav University Hospital. Material and method: This intervention study included 58 children with obesity (BMI ≥ 2 SDS). The treatment program promoted physical activity and a healthy diet for the participating families. Children were classified into high- or low parental socioeconomic status based on their parents’ occupation. Physical activity was assessed by accelerometer at baseline and after two years. Results: Similar to the normal weigh population of children, all participants reduced their level of physical activity over the two years of observation. A high level of physical activity at baseline was strongly associated with a greater reduction in physical activity after two years, and the reduction was significantly more pronounced in children with high parental socioeconomic status. Conclusions: The intervention was more successful in maintaining the physical activity level in children with low parental SES compared to children with high parental SES. This result emphasizes the need for more individualized treatment for obese children. Studies with larger sample sizes are needed to fully explore the relationship between change in physical activity and parental SES.