According to the Global Burden of Disease study, unhealthy diet and inadequate physical activity are among the main contributors to the disease burden globally and in Sweden, and contribute to social inequalities in health. Differences according to socioeconomic factors are seen from an early age, and parental educational level is one of the main determinants, but the mechanisms for these effects are largely unknown. A systematic review shows that individual counselling and group education for parents can be effective in improving diet and physical activity of children, also in low socio-economic groups. Assoc. Prof Schäfer Elinder’s research group had developed a parental support programme called A Healthy School Start for parents of children in pre-school class. The programme has been evaluated in two studies in areas with low to medium socio-economic status, and the results are promising. Further improvements of the programme are needed and another study is being planned. At this seminar, challenges regarding implementation of the programme within school health care services in low-income areas will be discussed. Another longitudinal and comparative study, currently at a planning stage, with the aim of investigating why low socioeconomic status of parents leads to unhealthy behaviours and obesity in the family, will be also outlined and discussed.

Liselotte Schäfer Elinder, MSc PhD, is an Associate Professor and Adjunct Senior Lecturer in intervention and implementation research at the Department of Public Health Sciences at Karolinska Institutet. She is the leader of the Community Nutrition and Physical Activity research group and is also affiliated to the Centre for Epidemiology and Community Medicine, Stockholm County Council, where she works in health promotion regarding diet and physical activity.