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Archives of Disease in Childhood ; 107(Suppl 2):A53-A54, 2022.
Article in English | ProQuest Central | ID: covidwho-2019827

ABSTRACT

AimsChildhood eating habits can shape growth and development, influencing both current and future health. Good nutrition supports optimal growth and reduces obesity risk. When COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in March 2020 Northern Ireland (N.I) introduced a legally enforceable ‘lockdown’, bringing about unprecedented change to the daily routine and activities of children and families in N.I. This study aims to examine whether the weight and dietary behaviours of children aged 5-11years in N.I changed during the period March to June 2021 as perceived by their parents.MethodsA 20-question parental survey was created with Yes/No questions, scaled data questions and free text opportunities. 20 schools were selected randomly from N. I’s Education Authority database. Headteachers were contacted and and 2 schools agreed to participate. 480 questionnaires were distributed and returned via schools. Parents could make an informed and voluntary decision to participate, no identifiable information was obtained. Included were questions on changes in weight and dietary behaviours comparing June 2021 with pre pandemic, for children 5-11 years, as perceived by parents.Results220 questionnaires were completed;(median and mean age 8 years. 48% female, 52% male.)Parents were asked if their child’s weight had changed beyond expected with normal growth since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 44 (20%) parents felt their child’s weight had increased, 168 (76%) reported no change and 8 (4%) parents perceived their child’s weight had decreased. Of the 44 children with reported weight gain beyond expected 18 (41%) were reported to have a less healthy diet than pre pandemic with 27 (61%) eating more treat food. Of all 220 parents 89 (41%) reported an increase in treat food consumption and 27 (61%) indicated their child was eating less fruit and vegetables. Only 11 (5%) reported an increase in fruit and vegetable consumption and 3 (1%) noted a decrease in treat consumption.Conclusion1 in 5 parents perceived their child’s weight increased beyond that expected during the pandemic. Consumption of treat foods increased for 4 in 10 children. This is worrying as 27% of N.I children aged 2-15 years were already classified as overweight/obese in the Health Survey 2018-2019.1 In addition, treat food consumption was already at alarming levels amongst N.I children with a 2019 study suggesting levels of treat consumption 7 times higher than recommended.2 Public health efforts should be directed towards ensuring these obesogenic health behaviours in childhood do not become ingrained habits in the longer term. Increasing our knowledge of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on weight and dietary habits of children in N.I is essential to inform future public health priorities.ReferenceHealth Survey Northern Ireland: First Results 2018/19 [Internet]. Health. 2019 [cited 19 September 2021]. Available from: https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/news/health-survey-northern-ireland-first-results-201819Safefood start campaign. Available from: https://www.safefood.net/news/2019/children-eating-more-treats

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