PhD Defence: Tracing early interventions on childhood overweight

A sociological qualitative study of preventive action on overweight among pre-school children of diverse ethnic background in Denmark

PhD defence

Kia Ditlevsen


This thesis presents results from a qualitative research project on early interventions to counter childhood obesity in Denmark. Overall, it was found that these interventions in families with preschool children were rarely performed. One barrier to the interventions is the structural setting in the Danish health care system, which was found to be insufficient to initiate and facilitate early interventions. In addition, cultural stereotypes were found to affect the health care practitioners who are performing early interventions, and this can create reluctance to address overweight problems in families with a non-western ethnic minority background and with low socioeconomic status. In families who participated in interventions, other social problems and a sense of insecurity caused by precarious living conditions of different kinds influenced the parents’ readiness to restrict children in order to enforce lifestyle changes.

Overall, this thesis addresses issues of childhood obesity, inequality in health, health policy, individualization, racialized biases in health care, the role of health care practitioners and insecurity and health.

The PhD is part of the project Towards Sustainable Healthy Lifestyles Interventions for Migrants (SULIM).


Annemette Ljungdalh Nielsen, Associate Professor, Department of Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Susanne Reventlow, Professor, Research Director, The Research Unit for General Practice, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Assesment Committee

Lotte Holm, Professor, Department of Food and Resource Economics, University  of Copenhagen, Denmark

Tine Tjørnhøj-Thomsen, Professor, National Institute of Public Health, University of Southern Denmark, Denmark

Paul Bissell, Professor, Section of Public Health, ScHARR, The University of Sheffield, United Kingdom

If you are interested in a copy of the thesis, you can contact the PhD student at or Annemette Nielsen at