Researchers develop 'conversation cards' to broach subject of pediatric weight management

December 12, 2011

Medical researchers at the University of Alberta have created a deck of cards with conversation starters about sensitive and informational topics related to weight, that parents can use to guide their discussions when talking about their child's weight management with health professionals.

Researchers in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Alberta created these 'conversation cards' based on their findings in a recently published paper in the peer-reviewed journal Patient Education and Counseling.

Their study revealed that a family-based approach, where parents are key players in developing an action plan with their child's health-care professional, is key to building rapport, trust and success for everyone involved.

In their study the researchers carried out interviews with various health-care professionals and parents of children with weight-management problems. The study showed that parents are less apt to work with health-care professionals in certain scenarios. Parents took offence to the use of the term obese, health-care professionals who seem disrespectful or apathetic, and health-care professionals who determine goals and action plans for the child without consulting the parents. All of these dynamics can negatively affect the willingness of the parents to be engaged, follow medical advice or return for follow-up appointments, the study noted.

Health-care professionals acknowledged they were sometimes overly eager to help and found it difficult to step back and let the families be more involved in the decision-making process, said the paper.

"What we found is relationships are fundamental to maintaining that contact, in supporting families to make healthy changes," says pediatric medical researcher Geoff Ball, the principal investigator who worked alongside co-investigators Mandi Newton and Arya Sharma, as well as medical graduate student Carla Farnesi, on the research study.

"It's not always easy to navigate that relationship but when it is done well, clinicians feel rewarded and families perceive value in that interaction...If we want to be effective at addressing these issues, language and rapport are central."

To address these issues in clinical practice, the researchers developed these 'conversation cards', which will be piloted in January 2012 at the Alberta Health Services Pediatric Centre for Weight and Health. Each deck has 45 statements focusing on various key areas such as nutrition, activity and family issues - for example, 'My kids hate vegetables,' 'I like it when medical terms are explained to me,' 'My partner doesn't understand me very well,' and 'Healthy foods are expensive.' There are some blank cards where parents can write their own statements.

The cards will be given to parents while they are in the waiting room.

"We want to use the cards to get to the most important issues the families are dealing with that day," says Ball, who is also the director of Alberta Health Services's Pediatric Centre for Weight and Health. "One of the things that these cards do is reduce the power differential between the medical expert and the parents. If parents feel more empowered by initiating the direction of the discussion, we think we can set the stage for a more supportive and positive conversation."

Ball said an obesity researcher he knows in Vancouver told him about the idea of using cards to initiate discussions with medical professionals. The concept started in the U.K. where a similar set of cards was developed for adults with type 2 diabetes.

Building a working relationship with parents is a central concern for the AHS' Pediatric Centre for Weight and Health. The centre gets about 200 referrals a year for children with weight-management problems, but only about half of the parents follow up on their referrals by contacting the centre.

Other interesting findings from the U of A study noted parents sometimes find it challenging to make time for follow-up appointments and would be interested in having physicians conduct follow-ups via email, text messaging or phone calls. Ball said if communicating with families via these mediums can be done in a safe and secure way, it would be another tool to use to promote patient-centred care.

Researchers interviewed 12 health-care professionals who work in the area of pediatric weight management and eight parents whose children are getting assistance in this area. Interviews were conducted either through focus groups or one-on-one interviews using vignettes where a mock example was given of a parent's interactions with various health professionals regarding her child with weight management issues.
-end-
The research was funded by a grant from the Women and Children's Health Research Institute at the University of Alberta.

University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry

Related Health Articles from Brightsurf:

The mental health impact of pandemics for front line health care staff
New research shows the impact that pandemics have on the mental health of front-line health care staff.

Modifiable health risks linked to more than $730 billion in US health care costs
Modifiable health risks, such as obesity, high blood pressure, and smoking, were linked to over $730 billion in health care spending in the US in 2016, according to a study published in The Lancet Public Health.

New measure of social determinants of health may improve cardiovascular health assessment
The authors of this study developed a single risk score derived from multiple social determinants of health that predicts county-level cardiovascular disease mortality.

BU study: High deductible health plans are widening racial health gaps
The growing Black Lives Matter movement has brought more attention to the myriad structures that reinforce racial inequities, in everything from policing to hiring to maternal mortality.

Electronic health information exchange improves public health disease reporting
Disease tracking is an important area of focus for health departments in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

E-health resource improves men's health behaviours with or without fitness facilities
Men who regularly used a free web resource made significantly more health changes than men who did not, finds a new study from the University of British Columbia and Intensions Consulting.

Mental health outcomes among health care workers during COVID-19 pandemic in Italy
Symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and insomnia among health care workers in Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic are reported in this observational study.

Mental health of health care workers in china in hospitals with patients with COVID-19
This survey study of almost 1,300 health care workers in China at 34 hospitals equipped with fever clinics or wards for patients with COVID-19 reports on their mental health outcomes, including symptoms of depression, anxiety, insomnia and distress.

Health records pin broad set of health risks on genetic premutation
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Marshfield Clinic have found that there may be a much broader health risk to carriers of the FMR1 premutation, with potentially dozens of clinical conditions that can be ascribed directly to carrying it.

Attitudes about health affect how older adults engage with negative health news
To get older adults to pay attention to important health information, preface it with the good news about their health.

Read More: Health News and Health Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.