Objective: The purpose of this study was to assess which knowledge deficits and dietary habits in an urban pediatric emergency department (ED) population are risk factors for obesity.
Methods: This cross-sectional study in an urban pediatric ED used a modified version of the Diet and Health Knowledge Survey, an in-person interview questionnaire, to collect data on demographics, dietary knowledge, and practices. All patients aged 2 to 17 years were enrolled in the study over a 4-month period. Subjects were excluded if they were in extremis, pregnant, incarcerated, institutionalized, considered an emancipated minor, or consumed only a modified consistency diet.
Results: One hundred seventy-nine subjects were enrolled in this study. Based on body mass index, the prevalence of obesity in our study population was 24%. Parents with obese children answered a mean of 62.9% (95% confidence interval, 60.4%-65.5%) of knowledge questions correctly, whereas all others scored 60.3% (95% confidence interval, 58.3%-62.3%) correctly. Based on the univariate analysis, 10 predictors met inclusion criteria into logistic regression analysis: screen time (P = 0.03), race (P = 0.08), sex (P = 0.04), parental education (P = 0.08), parental estimation that child is overweight (P < 0.0001), parental estimation that child is underweight (P = 0.003), trimming fat from meat (P = 0.06), soft-drink consumption (P = 0.03), exercise (P = 0.07), and chip consumption (P = 0.04). In a multivariate analysis, only male sex, regularly trimming fat from meat, and parental assessment of obesity were independently associated with obesity.
Conclusions: Knowledge deficiencies regarding healthy nutrition among parents in an urban pediatric ED population were not significantly associated with having obese children; however, specific habits were. Emergency physicians may provide a valuable role in identification and brief behavioral intervention in high-risk populations during the current epidemic of childhood obesity.