Background: Parents directly influence children's physical activity and nutrition behaviors and also dictate the physical and social environments that are available to their children. This paper summarizes the development of an easy to use screening tool (The Family Nutrition and Physical Activity (FNPA) Screening Tool) designed to assess family environmental and behavioral factors that may predispose a child to becoming overweight.
Methods: The FNPA instrument was developed using constructs identified in a comprehensive evidence analysis conducted in collaboration with the American Dietetics Association. Two or three items were created for each of the ten constructs with evidence grades of II or higher. Parents of first grade students from a large urban school district (39 schools) were recruited to complete the FNPA screening tool and provide permission to link results to BMI data obtained from trained nurses in each school. A total of 1085 surveys were completed out of the available sample of 2189 children in the district. Factor analysis was conducted to examine the factor structure of the scale. Mixed model analyses were conducted on the composite FNPA score to determine if patterns in home environments and behaviors matched some of the expected socio-economic (SES) and ethnic patterns in BMI. Correlations among FNPA constructs and other main variables were computed to examine possible associations among the various factors. Finally, logistic regression was used to evaluate the construct validity of the FNPA scale.
Results: Factor analyses revealed the presence of a single factor and this unidimensional structure was supported by the correlation analyses. The correlations among constructs were consistently positive but the total score had higher correlations with child BMI than the other individual constructs. The FNPA scores followed expected demographic patterns with low income families reporting lower (less favorable) scores than moderate or high income families. Children with a total score in the lowest tertile (high risk family environment and behaviors) had an odds ratio (OR) of 1.7 (95% CI = 1.07 - 2.80) compared to children with a total score in the highest tertile (more favorable family environment and behaviors) but this effect was reduced when parent BMI was included as a covariate.
Conclusion: The results support the contention that the FNPA tool captures important elements of the family environment and behaviors that relate to risk for child overweight.