Issue addressed: Health and nutrition inequalities are prevalent among families from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. However, there is limited evidence of targeted early childhood nutrition and active play approaches due to the methodological challenges in engaging vulnerable families in research.
Methods: The aim of this paper was to report findings from a pilot intervention called Confident and Understanding Parents (CUPs). CUPs aims to improve child nutrition and active play-related outcomes for children in vulnerable families. The intervention was delivered in six Supported Playgroups (SPs) in two disadvantaged locations in Victoria. Surveys incorporated knowledge and confidence measures and were administered pre- and post-training of SP facilitators along with pre-, immediately post and and 3 months postintervention to SP facilitators and parents. Qualitative data were collected via debriefing discussions with SP facilitators and ethnographic observations during SP sessions. Thematic analyses of qualitative data and statistical quantitative analyses were conducted.
Results: Nine SP facilitators completed training, of whom six delivered CUPs in SPs with 64 parents of children aged 0 to 4 years from socially disadvantaged backgrounds. Forty-three parents (66%) attended a minimum of 50% of SP sessions with CUPs delivery. SP facilitators and parents demonstrated improved knowledge and confidence following the pilot. Learnings for implementation were identified.
Conclusion: Overall, the CUPs intervention reached and engaged vulnerable families. A strength of the intervention is the flexibility offered to SP facilitators in selecting key messages and the strong focus on “local” translation of key child nutrition and active play messages within existing early childhood settings. A further strength was the adaptation of evaluation methodology to optimise the engagement of vulnerable families.
So what?: This pilot study provides insights about engaging vulnerable families in a nutrition and active play intervention to promote child health. These promising findings warrant further implementation and rigorous evaluation of CUPs.