Perceptions of Healthful Eating and Influences on the Food Choices of Appalachian Youth

Speaker: Mark Swanson, PhD

Objective: Patterns of overweight and obesity have an unequal geographic distribution, and there are elevated rates in Appalachia. Perceptions of Appalachian youth toward healthful eating and influences on food choice were examined as part of formative research to address these disparities.

Methods: Eleven focus groups, averaging 6 youth (n = 68) and moderated by experienced local residents, were conducted with participants aged 8–17. Session transcripts were coded for thematic analysis, using measures to enhance rigor and transferability.

Results: Participants discussed numerous internal and external factors affecting dietary choices. They expressed confidence in their own nutritional knowledge, and they stressed the importance of taste preferences, cost, convenience, social influences, and advertising on diet.

Conclusions and Implications: Appalachian youth awareness of the multiple influences on diet may create opportunities for multifaceted, ecologically based interventions. In particular, participants stressed the importance of social influences on diet and on successful nutrition programming.

Slides