Aims: To compare nutrition and active play of children aged 0-4 years attending Supported Playgroups and mainstream services and to compare access, understanding and application of health information within these families.
Methods: A cross-sectional study of children aged 0-4 years attending early childhood services. Following stratified random sampling, 81 parents of children attending Supported Playgroups in two highly disadvantaged municipalities of Victoria, Australia were surveyed about children's nutrition, active outdoor play/screen time and access to health information. Responses were dichotomised based on national recommendations and compared with 331 children attending maternal and child health and childcare centres (mainstream services). All outcomes except age were dichotomous and analysed using chi-square, relative risk and 95% confidence intervals.
Results: More children from Supported Playgroups consumed sweet drinks (P = 0.005), 'packaged' foods (P = 0.012) and tea/coffee (P = 0.038) than mainstream children. Supported Playgroup families reported more food insecurity (P = 0.016) and excessive 'screen time' for children under 2 years (P = 0.03). Fewer Supported Playgroups parents sought advice from family members (P < 0.001) and the Internet (P = 0.014) and more experienced difficulties accessing (P < 0.001), understanding (P = 0.002) and applying health information (P < 0.001).
Conclusion: Despite comparable availability of child health information, Supported Playgroups children demonstrated more concerning child health practices, and families experienced greater difficulties accessing, understanding and applying advice than families from mainstream services despite living in the same highly disadvantaged locations.