Aim of abstract This abstract presents the findings of a study exploring the views of migrant parents on maintaining the health of pre-school children in the United Kingdom (UK).
Background There is evidence that the health behaviours of immigrants deteriorate over time, with a decrease in breastfeeding and taking exercise, and an increase in eating higher fat foods and smoking (Hawkins et al 2008, Jayaweera and Quigley 2010). This has a consequent impact upon the health of dependent children in the short and long term. Children of migrant parents are a growing group in the UK population with 25% of births in 2013 to mothers born abroad (ONS 2014).
Methods Five focus groups were held with parents of children aged 0–5 years who had migrated to the UK within the last ten years. Parents originated from Romania, Poland, Somalia and Pakistan, with one group made up of Roma parents. Data collection took place January–March 2015. Participants (n = 28) were selected purposively, using local link workers to aid recruitment. Interpreters were provided for all groups, but the Polish group chose to speak English. Focus groups were audiotaped, and data fully transcribed. NVivo10 was used to facilitate thematic analysis.
Results Improving children’s life chances was a factor motivating migration; however, once in the UK differences in lifestyle challenged parents’ ability to keep children healthy. All groups apart from the Roma perceived their children’s play, exercise and nutrition to be less healthy post-migration.
Conclusion This qualitative study indicates the challenges faced by migrant parents in maintaining children health in the UK. Health in the early years sets the course of lifelong health so it is important child health professionals support parents to retain positive health behaviours post-migration.
Hawkins, S. S., Lamb, K., Cole, T. J. and Law, C. Influence of moving to the UK on maternal health behaviours: prospective cohort study. BMJ Online 336. 2008;7652:1052–55
Jayaweera, H. and Quigley, M. A. Health status, health behaviour and healthcare use among migrants in the UK: evidence from mothers in the Millennium Cohort Study. Social Science and Medicine, 2010;71:1002–10
Office for National NS (2014) http://www.ons.gov.uk
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