Term of Award

Spring 2014

Degree Name

Doctor of Public Health in Community Health Behavior and Education (Dr.P.H.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health

Committee Chair

Moya L. Alfonso, PhD, MSPH

Committee Member 1

Andrew R. Hansen, DrPH, MS

Committee Member 2

Yelena Tarasenko, DrPH, MPH, MPA


Preventing childhood obesity is a global priority due to adverse health risks and financial burdens. With childhood obesity rates stabilizing it is difficult to determine which factors alone (i.e., genetic, environmental, behavioral, or demographic) increase susceptibility to childhood obesity. Parents influence childhood obesity risk factors through their parenting styles and behaviors. Social behavioral theories and public health evidence demonstrate including parents in childhood obesity efforts could assist in reducing childhood obesity rates. The objective of this study was to assess perceptions of childhood obesity among African Americans with children enrolled in a rural elementary school in the Deep South. The concurrent mixed methods study utilized a fifty-nine item questionnaire and fourteen semi-structured interview guide to collect information on perceptions of risk factors, health complications, weight status of the child, the built environment, and prevention strategies. Using a convenience sample, participants ages 22-65, completed a paper-based survey (n=135) and participated in a face-to-face interview (n=12). Descriptive statistics were obtained from the surveys. A six-step process was used for qualitative analysis. Participants commonly cited behavioral risk factors as a contributing cause of childhood obesity; yet, they did not believe social aspects and appearance of the community were contributing factors. Also diabetes, hypertension, and stroke were health complications reported by participants. Analysis of the surveys and interviews revealed that participants assessed their child’s weight and height status by child’s appearance or the child’s recent doctor visit. In addition, few participants had a distorted view of their child’s weight status. Barriers reported by participants included safety and insufficient physical activity venues and programs. Furthermore, participants believed parents played a vital role in the prevention of childhood obesity. Findings suggest that programs and interventions would be effective by focusing on parental concerns in rural communities. In addition, engaging parents in the design, implementation, and evaluation of these efforts would be beneficial. Obesity prevention efforts must address parent’s individual choices, lifestyles, and the external environment of the rural community.

OCLC Number


Research Data and Supplementary Material