Online Program

Visualizing “healthy eating” in rural El Salvador through the eyes of children

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Michelle Martin, MS, CHES, Department of Biobehavioral Health, Penn State University, University Park, PA
Elizabeth Jeitner, Department of Biobehavioral Health, Penn State University, University Park, PA
Lori Francis, PhD, Department of Biobehavioral Health, Penn State University, University Park, PA
Introduction: Developing countries are now undergoing a nutrition transition characterized by shifts in diet and physical activity patterns similar to developed countries, resulting in high occurrences of chronic conditions, like obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD). Poor, rural communities share the bulk of these increased incidences, which places the children who live within these communities at great risk. This study aimed to explore children’s conceptualization of “healthy eating” and identify enablers and barriers to eating healthy within rural communities of northeastern El Salvador. Methods: Seventeen students between the ages of 8 and 12 participated in the month-long project. Students were asked to define main concepts, such as ‘health’ and ‘healthy eating’. They were then paired into groups and took photographs of concepts related to "healthy eating" and existing enablers and barriers. Results: A total of 100 photos were generated for analysis. The following main themes emerged: 1) globalization, 2) access, 3) the juxtaposition of “healthy” and “not-so healthy”, and 4) health properties associated with certain foods. Students identified popular food products readily available within their rural neighborhood stores, juxtaposed with a limited selection of fresh fruits and vegetables. Students attributed both positive and negative health outcomes to different foods, such as limes, carrots, bread and sweets. Discussion: Students’ photos revealed several realities that complicate dietary health choices and outcomes. Identification of barriers and enablers in a manner that recognizes children’s conceptualization and capacities in dietary health merits further investigation, particularly as children remain one of the most vulnerable populations worldwide.

Learning Areas:

Diversity and culture

Learning Objectives:
Discuss evidence of a changing food environment among a rural area in El Salvador, Central America. Describe a participatory method that acknowledges children's capacities in dietary health promotion.

Keyword(s): Participatory Research, Youth

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been the principal investigator of research programs focused on cardiometabolic and dietary health in El Salvador through both quantitative and qualitative data strategies. Among my scientific interests has been the investigation of children's conceptualization and capacities in dietary health promotion, specifically among vulnerable, rural communities in Latin America.
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.