142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition

Annual Meeting Recordings are now available for purchase

Oral Health and Diet: Perspectives from Latino Parents of Young Children

142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition (November 15 - November 19, 2014): http://www.apha.org/events-and-meetings/annual
Tuesday, November 18, 2014 : 10:50 AM - 11:10 AM

Kristin Hoeft, MPH , Departments of Epidemiology & Biostatistics and Preventive & Restorative Dental Sciences, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
Judith C. Barker, PhD , Department of Anthropology, History and Social Medicine; Center to Address Disparities in Children's Oral Health (CAN DO), University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
Claudia Guerra, MSW , Dept Preventive & Restorative Dental Sciences and Center to Address Children's Oral Health Disparities, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA

To examine parent/caregiver knowledge, beliefs and behaviors around children’s diet and oral health.



Latino children suffer disproportionately from dental caries. Diet, including frequent fermentable carbohydrate consumption, is a contributing factor for which parental and home behaviors are complex and not well understood.



Qualitative interviews in Spanish investigated parents/caregivers’ beliefs on diet influencing oral health and beliefs and practices around purchasing, preparing, and providing food and snacks for children under age five. Latino mothers/caregivers were interviewed individually in an urban city (n=48) and rural farmworking town (n=30); five focus groups were conducted (n=31 new participants).  Interviews and focus groups lasted 45-120 minutes. Questions included: “tell me about what your child eats”, “how did they get cavities?”, and “how has your diet changed since moving to the US?”. All interactions were audio recorded, translated, transcribed, coded and thematically analyzed.



Parents believed too much sugar (specifically candy) was harmful to dental health, and tried to limit their children’s consumption. But many gave young children agency to influence habits and felt outside influences (e.g. birthday parties) limited their ability to control a child’s access. Caregivers mentioned many changes from home country diets including more processed foods and fewer fruits and vegetables, primarily influenced by food availability, work schedules, and income.


Food choices and habits were influenced by individual and family-level factors such as child preference, family member preference, habit/tradition, as well as structural factors such as work schedules, family demands, food availability, financial limitations, and WIC education and assistance.

Learning Areas:

Chronic disease management and prevention
Diversity and culture
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe Latino parent/caregivers beliefs around the influence of their children’s diet on oral health. Discuss the individual, family and structural level influences on children’s diets.

Keyword(s): Child Health, Oral Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been working in health disparities research with Latino populations for 9 years, including 7 years doing qualitative research around Latino children's oral health with a particular focus on parental behavior.
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.