Formative research and strategic development of a physical activity component to a social marketing campaign for obesity prevention in preschoolers

J Community Health. 2008 Jun;33(3):169-78. doi: 10.1007/s10900-007-9079-z.


The prevalence of overweight in childhood, including preschoolers, continues to rise. While efforts focusing on school-aged children are encouraging, obesity prevention programs to address nutrition and physical activity in the child care center are lacking. Food Friends is a successfully evaluated nutrition program aimed at enhancing preschoolers' food choices, the addition of a physical activity program would improve the programs overall efforts to establish healthful habits early in life. This study describes the formative research conducted with secondary influencers of preschoolers-teachers and parents-for the development of a physical activity program. Key informant interviews and focus group discussions were conducted with preschool teachers and parents, respectively, to examine current physical activity practices, as well as attitudes, opinions, and desired wants and needs for physical activity materials. Findings illustrate that teachers provided physical activity; however, most did not use a structured program. Teachers identified time, space and equipment as barriers to providing activity in their classroom. Focus group findings identified activities of preschoolers', parents' perceptions of the adequacy of activity levels, and items to help parents engage their children in more physical activity. Barriers were also identified by parents and included time, safety, inclement weather, and lack of knowledge and self-efficacy. Findings from this formative research were used to develop a marketing strategy to guide the development of a physical activity component, Food Friends Get Movin' with Mighty Moves , as part of a larger social marketing campaign aimed to decrease the risk for obesity in low-income preschoolers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Child Day Care Centers
  • Child, Preschool
  • Early Intervention, Educational*
  • Faculty
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Motor Activity*
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Parents
  • Program Development / methods
  • Schools, Nursery*
  • Social Marketing*