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Impact of hospitalisation of children on parental dietary habits: a qualitative study
  1. Kirstyn Church1,
  2. David Campbell2,
  3. Vanessa Halliday3
  1. 1 Department of Oncology and Metabolism, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK
  2. 2 Gastroenterology, Sheffield Children’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Sheffield, UK
  3. 3 School of Health and Related Research, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Vanessa Halliday, University of Sheffield School of Health and Related Research, Sheffield S1 4DA, UK; vanessa.halliday{at}


Objective To explore how prolonged hospitalisation of a child with a neurological condition influences the dietary habits of parents, taking account of their attitudes and perceptions of this experience.

Design Qualitative study using semi-structured interviews and inductive thematic analysis.

Subjects Fifteen parents of children (aged 2–16 years) with a neurological condition resulting in prolonged periods of hospitalisation were recruited.

Results Mothers (n=13) and fathers (n=2) who were interviewed experienced frequent hospital visits brought about by their child’s condition, or associated medical complications. Dietary habits of parents were affected throughout their time in hospital. Three key themes were identified relating to how hospitalisation influenced this: (1) access to food, (2) emotional and physical well-being and (3) impact on eating patterns and food choice.

Conclusions Findings from this study suggest that parents in these circumstances need to be better supported within the hospital setting as a number of barriers exist when it comes to accessing food in hospital and making healthy food choices. Additionally, having a child in hospital has a considerable effect on a parent’s emotional well-being, which further impacts on their dietary habits. The long-term physical and mental health implications of this may influence their ability to care for the sick child.

  • parents
  • dietary habits
  • hospitalised children
  • neurological disorders
  • food choice

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  • Contributors All authors participated in the design of the study. KC was primarily involved in the data collection and analysis. All authors were involved in drafting, reading and approval of the final manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval The study was granted ethical approval by the School of Health and Related Research, University of Sheffield, Ethics Committee (reference number 013380).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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