Caregiver Perceptions of Child Health Behaviors and Weight During Treatment for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

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Pediatric Blood & Cancer


Background: Changes in health behaviors and weight are common during the early phases of pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia treatment, and may negatively impact treatment tolerability.. Given that ALL is most prevalent in children, caregivers play an essential role in shaping health behaviors during treatment. This study presents a qualitative analysis of semi-structured interviews with caregivers of youth in the early phases of ALL treatment.

Procedure: Caregivers (N = 17, 95% female) of a child (M age = 6.76 years) diagnosed with ALL and on treatment for less than 1 year (M = 8.7 months since diagnosis) completed a semi-structured interview about perceptions of their child's nutrition, physical activity, sedentary time, and weight during ALL treatment. Thematic analysis followed Braun and Clark's six-step framework (2006). Two coders established reliability (alpha = .88) and used a multi-pass coding system to extract themes.

Results: Caregivers' concerns around their child's weight during ALL treatment primarily centered around avoiding malnutrition. Weight gain during treatment was less of a concern and often viewed as protective. Caregivers reported encouraging their child to eat palatable, calorie-dense foods to mitigate risk for weight loss. Caregivers also expressed concern that children were less active and more sedentary due to treatment-related pain. Caregivers discussed health behaviors during treatment as being child-directed, rather than parent- or provider-directed.

Conclusion: Future interventions may consider strategies to engage in joint parent-child decisions and caregiver education around risks of excessive weight gain during treatment. Interventions should include anticipatory guidance and aim to support parents in developing skills to support their child's health behaviors during treatment.



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ALL, activity, behaviors, caregiver, qualitative, weight