Healthcare professionals’ perceptions of childhood obesity in Iquitos, Peru: a qualitative study

Jo F. Lai, Joanne Clarke, Gilles De Wildt, Graciela Meza, Miriam A. Addo, Esme Gardiner, Divya Khanna

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Background: Childhood obesity is an urgent worldwide concern associated with increased morbidity in adulthood. Healthcare professionals (HCPs) are well placed to influence childhood obesity trends and implement interventions. English-language studies regarding HCPs’ perceptions of childhood obesity are limited to high-income countries. Peru is an upper-middle-income country with regional disparities in childhood obesity prevalence. This qualitative study aims to explore HCPs’ perceptions of childhood obesity in Iquitos, Peru, where prevalence is relatively low.

Methods: Twenty-one HCPs with child healthcare experience were purposively recruited from two primary healthcare centres. Semi-structured, individual interviews were conducted with a translator and audio recorded. Transcribed data were analysed using thematic analysis.

Results: Eight themes were identified and divided into four categories: (1) HCPs’ perceptions and attitudes towards childhood obesity (level of concern regarding childhood obesity, perceived consequences of childhood obesity); (2) Factors which HCPs perceive to be important in the development of childhood obesity (parental factors, contextual factors); (3) HCPs’ perceptions of their role in childhood obesity prevention and management (educating parents about childhood obesity, regular monitoring of child growth); and (4) Barriers and facilitators in childhood obesity prevention and management (in healthcare, in schools).

Conclusions: HCPs had a low level of concern regarding childhood obesity in Iquitos and prioritised undernutrition. Parental factors were perceived to be the most influential in the development of childhood obesity. HCPs perceived themselves to have minimal influence due to prevailing positive views of excess weight and difficulties engaging parents. Educating parents about childhood obesity was felt to be essential to prevention and management although regular monitoring of child growth and home healthcare visits were viewed as useful additional measures. This study can help to inform the development of targeted public health strategies which are sensitive to local contexts and could prevent the upward childhood obesity trends evident elsewhere in Peru.
Original languageEnglish
Article number175
Number of pages13
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Early online date10 Feb 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Sincere thanks are owed to the participants who volunteered to take part in this study, the translator who provided invaluable assistance and the independent translator who verified translations.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


  • Childhood obesity
  • Peru
  • Perceptions
  • Healthcare professionals
  • Qualitative


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