Background: Parents typically do not recognise their child's weight status accurately according to clinical criteria, and thus may not take appropriate action if their child is overweight. We developed a novel visual intervention designed to improve parental perceptions of child weight status according to clinical criteria for children aged 4-5 and 10-11 years. The Map Me intervention comprises age- and sex-specific body image scales of known body mass index and supporting information about the health risks of childhood overweight.
Design: This cluster randomised trial will test the effectiveness of the Map Me intervention. Primary schools will be randomised to: paper-based Map Me; web-based Map Me; no information (control). Parents of reception (4-5 years) and year 6 (10-11 years) children attending the schools will be recruited. The study will work with the National Child Measurement Programme which measures the height and weight of these year groups and provides feedback to parents about their child's weight status. Before receiving the feedback, parents will complete a questionnaire which includes assessment of their perception of their child's weight status and knowledge of the health consequences of childhood overweight. The control group will provide pre-intervention data with assessment soon after recruitment; the intervention groups will provide post-intervention data after access to Map Me for one month. The study will subsequently obtain the child height and weight measurements from the National Child Measurement Programme. Families will be followed-up by the study team at 12 months. The primary outcome is any difference in accuracy in parental perception of child weight status between pre-intervention and post-intervention at one month. The secondary outcomes include differences in parent knowledge, intention to change lifestyle behaviours and/or seek advice or support, perceived control, action planning, coping planning, and child weight status at 12 month follow-up.
Discussion: The Map Me tool has potential to make a positive impact on children's health at a population level by introducing it into current intervention programmes to improve accuracy of parental perception of child's weight status. This trial will inform the action of researchers, educators, health professionals and policy makers.