Objectives: The purposes of this study were (1) to examine parental perception of childhood obesity and race with measured body mass index (BMI), (2) to determine if parents are receptive to obesity screening in the pediatric emergency department and if receptivity varies by race or weight status, and (3) to determine eating habits that are predictors of obesity.
Methods: This study is a cross-sectional study, with a convenience sample of 213 patients (aged 4–16 years accompanied by a parent/legal guardian to a pediatric emergency department). Weight and height were obtained, and parents were asked to complete a survey about perception of their child’s weight, nutrition, and exercise habits.
Results: The current study found that parent perception of weight status was fairly accurate, and perception was predictive of BMI. Race, however, was not predictive of BMI. Parents were generally receptive of weight screening in the pediatric emergency department, and this did not vary as a function of weight status; however, receptivity did vary based on ethnicity, with African American parents being more receptive than white parents. Large portion sizes and the number of times a child eats fast food per week were found to be predictive of obesity.
Conclusions: Greater than half of the children presenting to our pediatric emergency department were overweight or obese. Parents were generally accurate in their perception of their child’s weight but were still receptive to obesity prevention and screening in the pediatric emergency department.