Differences in perceived causes of childhood obesity between migrant and local communities in China: A qualitative study

Bai Li, Rong Lin, Wei Liu, Jingyi Chen, Weijia Liu, KK Cheng, Miranda Pallan, Peymane Adab, Laura Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


In developing countries, obesity traditionally affectsmore affluent children, butis spreading to a wider social group. Understanding the perceivedcontributors can provide valuable insights to plan preventive interventions. We exploreddifferences in the perceived causes of childhood obesity between local and migrant communities in a major Chinese city. We conducted 20 focus groups (137 parents, grandparents, school teachers) and 11semi-structured interviews with school Principals from migrant and local communities in Guangzhou. Data were transcribed and analysed using a thematic approach. We found that Lack of influence from grandparents, who were perceived to promote obesogenic behaviorin local children, fewer opportunities for unhealthy snacking and less pressure for academic attainment leading to moreactive play were interpreted as potential “protective” factors among migrant children. Nevertheless, two perceived causes of obesity were more pronounced in migrant than local children: lack of parental monitoring after-school andunsafe neighborhoods limiting physical-activity. Two barriers that restricted child physical activity were only found in the migrant community: limited home space, and cultural differences, inhabitinginteractive play with local children. Future interventions should consider uniquedeterminants of obesity in children from different social backgrounds, with tailored strategies to prevent further rise of the epidemic.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPLoS ONE
Publication statusPublished - 17 May 2017

Structured keywords

  • SPS Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences


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