Obesity prevention in English primary schools: headteacher perspectives

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Colleges, School and Institutes

Abstract

Schools are seen as important contributors to obesity prevention, yet face barriers in fulfilling this function. This qualitative study investigates headteacher views on the primary school role in preventing obesity. Semi-structured interviews were held with 22 headteachers from ethnically and socio-economically diverse schools in the West Midlands, UK. Data analysis was conducted using the framework approach. Two over-arching categories were identified: ‘School roles and responsibilities’ and ‘Influencing factors’. Participants agreed that although schools contribute towards obesity prevention in many ways, a moral responsibility to support children's holistic development was the principal motivator, rather than preventing obesity per se. The perceived impact on learning was a key driver for promoting health. Parents were believed to have the main responsibility for preventing obesity, but barriers were identified. Whilst headteachers recognized the advantageous position of schools in offering support to parents, opinion varied on the degree to which schools could and should take on this role. Headteachers serving more deprived areas reported adopting certain responsibilities that elsewhere were fulfilled by parents, and were more likely to view working with families on healthy lifestyles as an important school function. Several factors were perceived as barriers to schools doing more to prevent obesity, including academic pressure, access to expert support and space. In conclusion, school leaders need more support, through resources and government policy, to enable them to maximize their role in obesity prevention. Additionally, school-based obesity prevention should be an integral part of the education agenda rather than bolt-on initiatives.

Details

Original languageEnglish
JournalHealth Promotion International
Early online date20 Dec 2015
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Dec 2015