Date of Award

2014

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Nutrition and Food Sciences

First Advisor

Alison Tovar

Abstract

Childhood obesity in the United States has more than doubled over the last thirty years. As of 2012 in the United States, the percentage of obese children and adolescents ages 2 – 19 years remains alarmingly high at 16.9%. Childhood obesity is a major public health concern as obesity is associated with multiple health complications and increased mortality and morbidity. The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) targets low-income households and provides knowledge and skills to improve nutritional well-being. The goal of this project was to explore: 1) participant satisfaction with regards to the current Rhode Island Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (RI-EFNEP) curriculum, 2) the perceived cultural appropriateness of the curriculum , 3) parents’ perceptions of how certain obesity-related behaviors are discussed, and 4) participants’ current parenting practices related to raising healthy children. Sixty minute semi-structured interviews were conducted in local community centers throughout Rhode Island with participants (n=22) who had completed the RI-EFNEP program. A translator was present for individuals communicating in Spanish. Participants were 18 or older and had a young child between ages 2 – 8 years. All interviews were transcribed. Content analysis was utilized to analyze themes coded in Microsoft NVivo 10 QSR. Approximately 73% of participants identified as Hispanic/Latino and all participants were low-income. Results indicate that parents increased nutritional knowledge and reported changed behaviors (e.g. greater fruit and vegetable intake, whole grain intake). They stated that they had an excellent experience and felt respected and empowered. Additionally, they had suggestions for improving the curriculum (e.g. budgeting, label reading, media literacy, food demonstrations, parenting skills, portion control, and recipes). Participants reported that the paraprofessionals incorporated culture into the curriculum. Parents reported learning about obesity-related behaviors (e.g. sugar-sweetened beverages, eating outside the home, and fast-food consumption). Parents utilized routines and strategies at home for raising healthy children, but did identify skills and ideas they thought would help them. These findings can be used to tailor the curriculum for parents to ensure discussion on all obesity-related behaviors and can incorporate parenting skills education to further enhance the health of their families. Since EFNEP reaches a high-risk population, prevention of overweight and obesity should be promoted among these parents.

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