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Currently in Australia there is a lack of clarity regarding routine assessment of primary school aged children’s weight status despite it being the first step in the identification of overweight and obesity. The National Health and Medical Research Council Obesity Guidelines recommend primary health care professionals include routine weight status assessment in consultations with children yet research suggests this rarely occurs in practice.
This study aimed to determine the views of primary health care professionals regarding routine weight status assessment in primary school aged children and to establish the barriers to assessing children’s weight status.
Using the case study of a regional town, Rockhampton, purposeful sampling was used to represent the key primary health care settings and professional groups. Interviews were conducted with 31 health professionals. Data were collected and analysed guided by two frameworks, the Capability, Opportunity, Motivation and Behaviour and Theoretical Domains Frameworks.
Eight themes emerged from data and these were relevant to the three levels of influence on the routine weight status of assessment, system, setting and individual. System level themes related to having a formalised program for the undertaking of routine weight status assessment in primary school aged children, increasing the population’s awareness about the importance of the weight status check and limited public health services available for management of childhood overweight and obesity. Setting level theme regarded the location where routine weight status in primary school aged children could be undertaken. Four themes at the individual level of influence on the routine weight status assessment related to the primary health professionals’ roles, barriers to assessing children’s weight status, methods of weight status assessment and starting a weight related conversations with families.
The Government, primary health care services, professional organisations and associations as well as health professionals must commit to long-term implementation of the Obesity Guidelines. Immediate action to improve the undertaking of routine weight status assessment in children must be taken by each health service and health professional. Strategies should aim to positively affect motivation to assess children’s weight status as it is the central component in creating change in practice.