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Children’s weight control and physical activity in a popular neighborhood of Strasbourg : family models and public health recommendations

Marine Grassler, Sandrine Knobé, William Gasparini

Research Framework : By becoming a priority of public health policies in France, the prevention of childhood overweight and obesity has given rise to numerous public programs and actions at the local level. This is the case of the city of Strasbourg which, since 2014, has set up a prevention device entitled  » PRise En Charge Coordonnée des enfants Obèses et en Surpoids de Strasbourg  » (PRECCOSS) for children aged 3 to 12 years.

Objectives : Based on a sociological approach that combines an analysis of actors and devices, this article questions how the local policy of fight against overweight was received by children and their families residing in a popular neighborhood. The goal is to better understand the plural relationships to a device aimed at the child’s body and its effects.

Methodology : A qualitative sociological survey, combining semi-structured interviews and observations, was conducted with ten families, whose at least one child was overweight and encouraged to participate in PRECCOSS’s device.

Results : The comparative analysis of families participating or not in the device highlights the conflicts of legitimacy faced by parents, especially mothers, between public health recommendations to combat sedentary and family patterns of exercise, eating behaviours and lifestyle related to cultural backgrounds.

Conclusions : By aiming to reduce the gap between the dominant body model promoted by public health policies and the corporal culture of these families, the device of care for the child in his corporeality directs the family action but also encounters forms of resistance.

Contribution : These results refine and nuance analyses that often present popular classes, in comparison to more privileged classes, as less incline to put into practice the normative prescriptions.