205756 “I'm a Teenager I'm Not Gonna be a Health Freak”: Urban Female Adolescents Perceptions of Health and Health Related Behaviors

Monday, November 9, 2009

Virginia Brown , Department of Public Health Education, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC
American children are experiencing a health crisis. Approximately 1/3 are overweight/obese, causing an increase in diabetes, hypertension, and other weight-related illnesses. Many children engage in more screen time (television/computer) than physical activity. Meals are often high in fat and cholesterol and do not meet recommended dietary standards. Urban girls-of-color not only have greater rates of sedentary behaviors and obesity, but are at increased risk of obesity-related health problems. Consequently, health professionals have increased efforts to intervene with this population on healthy lifestyles.

In an effort to better understand the health perceptions of urban adolescent girls-of-color, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 15 girls during 2006. Questions focused on their healthy and unhealthy practices as well as their definitions of both individual and family health. Conversations were recorded, transcribed and analyzed using the constant comparative approach. Data revealed that girls defined individual health in terms of physical and psychosocial characteristics and that girls' perceptions of health practices were frequently influenced by both the media and their mothers. While many girls demonstrated accurate health knowledge, they varied on their perceptions of what constituted healthy practices for themselves. Several girls incorrectly perceived their eating and exercise habits as being healthy when they clearly were not. Finally, a few girls reported engaging in activities that violated professional health recommendations.

Findings suggest that while urban girls-of-color have a working knowledge of healthy behaviors, many still do not embrace them. Implications for future research and the development of health promotion strategies and campaigns will be discussed.

Learning Objectives:
After reviewing the information, participants will be able to a) discuss the health perceptions and misperceptions for urban adolescent girls-of-color and b) identify how findings can help program developers address the gaps in current education efforts—or inform educational effort.

Keywords: Adolescent Health, Public Health Education and Health Promotion

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a graduate student who is concentrating thir research on the adolescent/transitional age youth population. I have previous experience researching this population as child and adolescent health policy analyst with the Maryland Mental Health Transformation Grant. Finally, I have assisted in the anaylsis of the interviews and execution of the resulting health program.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.