University of Rhode Island
Mentor: Dr. Pamela DiNapoli, Assistant Professor of Nursing
Understanding Adolescent's Beliefs and Attitudes Related To Dietary and Physical Activity Behaviors
Background: Childhood obesity is a growing public health problem. It is largely attributable to unhealthy food choices and lack of physical activity. Obesity can be prevented through health education, family involvement in weight management, daily exercise, and role models within their social framework. In adolescence, food choice is increasingly independent of parental or other adult influence, yet, this is when eating and exercising habits are established.
Objective: The purpose of this study seeks to understand the beliefs and perceptions of adolescent dietary and physical activity behaviors.
Methods: Focus group interviews as a qualitative research method were used to gather information about motivations, attitudes, and opinions that are believed to be relevant to the health issue of obesity. Participants were randomly selected from a day camp in Durham and in Nashua at the Boys and Girls Club. A registered dietician moderated the focus groups, which were recorded on audiotape, and the data was transcribed, analyzed, and coded for common themes. Rosenstock's health belief model was used as a guiding framework for this study.
Results: Perceived obstacles to eating healthfully were time, appeal, and availability of food. The perceived barrier most often mentioned to engaging in physical fitness was the unavailability to nearby recreational centers. Modes of action mentioned by the groups that would promote physical activity and healthful eating included offering after school activity, accessibility to inexpensive facilities and opportunities to socialize with their peers. An unexpected finding was that the groups did not identify health consequences such as obesity as a perceived benefit to eating healthfully.
Conclusion: The results of the pilot study suggest that children are eating because it is available and allowable in their homes. Nurses have the opportunity to reverse this trend by implementing innovative programs in schools and in the community that promote healthy eating and physical activity. These programs must be taught by appropriate role models and should be interdisciplinary incorporating the mealtime as an opportunity to promote enjoyment of foods.