Contextual influences on the development of obesity in children: A case study of UK South Asian communities

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Objective. An advocated approach to childhood obesity prevention research is the use of local community knowledge to inform intervention development. This paper demonstrates the value of accessing such local knowledge, and discusses how this information fits with existing conceptual models of childhood obesity. Methods. A series of 9 focus groups were run in 2007 with 68 local community stakeholders (including parents, school staff, community leaders and health and local government representatives) from 8 South Asian communities in Birmingham, UK to explore perceptions of factors contributing to the development of childhood obesity. Results. Perceptions of causal influences were grouped into several contexts, from the individual to the macro-level, that influence diet and physical activity. Specific cultural contextual data emerged that may explain decisions around physical activity and food intake of children within these communities. Assumptions made about South Asian communities were frequently contested. Conclusions. In order to truly understand the contextual influences on childhood obesity in target communities, it is necessary to access knowledge from local community members. Existing conceptual models of childhood obesity do not bring the role of cultural factors to the fore, but this context needs to be explicitly considered in the development of childhood obesity interventions. (C) 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-211
Number of pages7
JournalPreventive Medicine
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2012


  • Obesity, Context, Food intake, Physical activity, South Asian, UK, Child