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Identifying barriers, perceptions and motivations related to healthy eating and physical activity among 6th to 8th grade, rural, limited-resource adolescents

Janavi Kumar (General Mills, Inc., Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA)
Koushik Adhikari (Department of Food Science and Technology, University of Georgia, Griffin, Georgia, USA)
Yijing Li (Department of Human Nutrition, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, USA)
Erika Lindshield (Department of Human Nutrition, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, USA)
Nancy Muturi (A. Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, USA)
Tandalayo Kidd (Department of Human Nutrition, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, USA)

Health Education

ISSN: 0965-4283

Article publication date: 1 February 2016

1975

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to enable community members to discuss their perceptions of eating habits and physical activity in relation to sixth, seventh, and eighth graders, and reveal facilitators and barriers to healthy eating behavior and physical activity engagement.

Design/methodology/approach

Nine focus groups, which included six groups from sixth, seventh, and eighth graders, two parents’ groups, and one teachers’ group, were conducted in a middle school in southwest Kansas. Individual influences, social influences, and larger contextual influences on early adolescent health were assessed by discussing behaviors, personal characteristics, and environmental factors, based on the Socio-Ecological Model (SEM).

Findings

Adolescent participants’ knowledge regarding healthful foods was limited. Taste and appearance were the two leading factors that contributed to food choices. Responses from adolescents, parents, and teachers all indicated difficulties when introducing new and healthful food items into adolescents’ diets. Besides physical education (PE) and school-related sports, the sources for physical activity were limited. Certain video games were specified as facilitators of physical activity by adolescents. Peer pressure was a predominant theme motivating most adolescents’ physical activities as well as food choices. These findings suggest numerous interrelated factors associated with healthy lifestyle in the population of this study.

Originality/value

By involving adolescents in the in-depth open-ended discussion through the focus groups helped reveal their unique attitudes, perceptions, and motivations toward practicing healthy lifestyles. Interventions targeting both behavior change and environmental change are needed.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This study was funded by USDA-NIFA (Grant No. 2012-68001-19619) entitled – Community-based participatory research (CBPR) model in preventing overweight and obesity among sixth-eighth grade youth in low-income racial/ethnic communities.

Citation

Kumar, J., Adhikari, K., Li, Y., Lindshield, E., Muturi, N. and Kidd, T. (2016), "Identifying barriers, perceptions and motivations related to healthy eating and physical activity among 6th to 8th grade, rural, limited-resource adolescents", Health Education, Vol. 116 No. 2, pp. 123-137. https://doi.org/10.1108/HE-03-2014-0035

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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