The ‘Little Footnotes’ project team have been exploring parents’ perceptions, knowledge and beliefs about their children’s feet. This is a summary of the work that has been published in the Journal of Child Health Care.
Why we wanted to know what parents thought about children’s feet?
Maintaining good foot health throughout childhood can be a concern for parents, and this can vary from concerns relating to when a child should wear a shoe through to understanding the foot problems associated with long-term health conditions. Understanding these concerns are important and can help us improve our approaches to supporting foot health throughout childhood.
Evidence suggests that improving the development of health information will improve the experiences and knowledge of those who need (and use) health information. However, there is limited understating about how parents explore children’s foot health information, how they perceive their children’s feet, and the strategies they employed when they have concerns.
How did we do this work?
For this project we interviewed parents about their experiences and 18 parents participated. Parents spoke with us via face-to-face interview or telephone interview.
What did we learn?
Spending time talking to parents, it quickly became clear there were common themes that parents shared in relation to supporting their children’s foot health needs. We were able to compile these into seven distinct themes.
- Parents beliefs and knowledge about children’s foot health
When we spoke to parents, they believed they had little awareness about foot health but discussed activities they carried out daily to support their child’s foot health needs. Parents identified key areas that they felt were important to ensuring good foot health practices 1) ensuring well-fitting footwear for children, 2) making sure foot hygiene was observed, 3) observing their children’s to ensure health growing feet.
Sharing foot health information
Parents painted an interesting picture when it came to how they shared foot health information, although this was not a common occurrence. If conversation took place, it was related to treatments or advice that might have worked, and usually advice given from experienced parents with older (and multiple) children was valued. Information shared was often based on parents own personal experiences or it was inherited advice from family members.
- Supporting healthy development
Parents’ support for their child’s foot health development was instinctively driven such as encouraging tummy time, encouraging walking and allowing time without shoes. However, these activities were carried out daily but there were feelings of not being confident with being able to identify what should be done or knowing what was suitable. There was an element of uncertainty – were parents were doing the right thing? Was it good advice to share?
Footwear choices, beliefs and influences
Ensuring children had well-fitting footwear was the biggest concern parents had. Parents seemed to seek out and trust certain leading high-street retailers. Parents were ensuring that their children’s feet were measured for shoes that their child would spend long periods of time in e.g. their school shoes. Shoes that were needed for running around or going to the beach, for example, would be purchased in supermarkets. Parents explained that the cost of footwear could drive decision-making, often sacrificing fitting services and / or advice when choosing cheaper ‘off the peg’ shoes.
- Accessing health professionals for foot health advice
There were few parents that had accessed health professionals with a foot concern. They expressed views that feet and foot health did not appear to be an obvious consideration during early infancy health checks. There was a strong concern for the inconsistencies with advice being relayed to parents and noted they were unclear on what defined good foot health practices and believed foot health messages were not clearly conveyed.
- Searching for foot health information
Interestingly, there were similar concerns over the foot health information that could be found online. Parents noted that this could be inconsistent, vague and difficult to ascertain as trustworthy information. This resulted in parents explaining that they had to employ good judgement, and common sense to ‘cherry pick’ good foot health information online.
- Developing practices to support parents
Improving signposting of foot health services and visibility of concise, trustworthy foot health messages was important to help parents; enabling them to confidently support their children’s foot health and development in early infancy and childhood.
Now what happens?
This work has expanded our understanding of the beliefs around maintaining foot health in early childhood. It indicates that parents want accurate, consistent and accessible foot health information, and health professionals have a key role in disseminating and signposting parents towards resources. We have a good insight into parents understanding and influences of children’s foot health and see that further exploration into understanding of the importance of good foot health research from a health professional point of view is important too.