How Will Education and Lifestyle Changes Prevent Obesity in Children

693 words | 3 page(s)

The article “Perspectives of Obese Children and their Parents on Lifestyle Behavior Change: A Qualitative Study,” (Schwalwijk et al., 2015), the authors’ approach differed considerably from that of the researchers who authored “A Randomized Trial of Reducing Television Viewing and Computer Use on Body Mass Index in Young Children” (Epstein et al., 2008). As a result of the divergent approaches used in these two papers, each offered a different type of information on how education and lifestyle changes can help prevent obesity in children. From the quantitative article, it was possible to gain specific numerical information about the relationship between certain lifestyle choices (television and computer watching) and the body mass index (BMI) of young children. In contrast, the qualitative article offered insight into the subjective experiences of obese children in their families who participated in family lifestyle information programs. The information from the quantitative article was more concerned with the results of a lifestyle intervention for preventing childhood obesity, while the qualitative article focused more heavily on the process of the intervention and its effects on the people involved.

There are both advantages and disadvantages to the two different research approaches in the articles. One of the advantages of the quantitative study is that it reports directly on the efficacy of a possible intervention. Specifically, Epstein et al. (2008) were able to use numerical data to show that their lifestyle intervention reduced television watching, computer use, and gaming. Another advantage to the quantitative study is that the researchers could use statistics to show that their proposed intervention had a significant effect on their target population. By providing the p-values for each of their statistics, Epstein et al. (2008) could make a strong case that their findings were not merely anecdotal. However, one of the disadvantages of this type of study is that it does not include systematically analyzed data about the experiences of the participants. Without this data, Epstein et al. (2008) could only speculate on possible ways to improve the effectiveness of the intervention in the future.

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One of the major advantages of a qualitative approach is that it can help resolve this problem. For instance, Schwalwijk et al. (2015) were able to use their data to characterize the specific struggles of parents and children during an intervention program, making it easier for the reader to understand how to improve interventions to prevent childhood obesity. More broadly, a key advantage of a qualitative study is that it can offer information about relevant topics that cannot be measured with numbers, such as parents’ frustrations when implementing lifestyle changes that could help prevent obesity (Schwalwijk et al., 2015). However, one of the disadvantages of this approach is that it can force a small sample size. Because of the time and resource constraints associated with semi-structured interviewing, Schwalwijk et al. (2015) only interviewed 18 children and 24 parents, so it is not entirely clear whether their experiences are generalizable to a broader population.

The claim that qualitative research is not real science is unfounded. Just like researchers who employ quantitative methods, those who conduct qualitative studies follow the steps of the scientific method, developing research questions and employing systematic methods to explore those methods. The conclusions they draw depend on the data derived from these systematic methods. Also, just like quantitative studies, the methods used in qualitative studies must be reproducible, making it possible for other scientists to either verify or refute the data with their own findings. Therefore, because qualitative research involves the careful collection and analysis of data in accordance with the scientific method, it should be considered real science, just like quantitative research.

  • Epstein, L.H., Roemmich, J.N., Robinson, J.L., Paluch, R.A., Winiewicz, D.D., Fuerch, J.H., & Robinson, T.N. (2008). A randomized trial of the effects of reducing television viewing and computer use on body mass index in young children. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 162(3), 239-45. doi: 10.1001/archpediatrics.2007.45
  • Schwalkwijk, A.A.H., Bot, S.D.M., de Vries, L., Westerman, M.J., Nipels, G., & Elders, P.J.M. (2015). Perspectives of obese children and their parents on lifestyle behavior change: A qualitative study. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 12, 102. doi: 10.1186/s12966-015-0263-8

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