Online Program

Perceived barriers to achieving a healthy weight: A comparative study of adolescent girls at public and private schools in Guatemala City

Tuesday, November 3, 2015 : 2:56 p.m. - 3:09 p.m.

Luisa Madrigal, B.A. Anthropology, Research Department, Cardiovascular Surgery Unit of Guatemala, Guatemala, Guatemala
Inez Adams, PhD, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA
Violeta Chacon, MPH, Research Department, Cardiovascular Surgery Unit of Guatemala, Guatemala, Guatemala
Joaquin Barnoya, MD, MPH, Division of Public Health Sciences, Department of Surgery, Washington University in St Louis, School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO
Background: Overweight prevalence among Guatemalan girls is 34.4% and 28.6% in public and private schools, respectively.  Little is known about girls´ perceptions of the right way to achieve a healthy weight.

Objective: To examine adolescent girls´ perceptions of a healthy weight and barriers to achieving it in the school environment.

Methods: We conducted four focus groups in public and private schools in Guatemala City with girls in grades seven through nine. The discussion guide included open-ended questions and activities aimed at examining perceptions of “healthy weight” and barriers and motivators to achieving it within the school environment.  Focus groups were audio-recorded and transcribed. Data analyses followed established methods of content analysis.   

Results: Twenty-eight girls (private schools, n=12; public schools, 16) with a mean age of 14.2 ± 0.8 (SD) years participated. Public and private school girls identified images of thin and fit women as healthy. They cited diet and physical activity as ways to achieve a healthy weight. Within the school environment, barriers to maintaining healthy weight included a lack of healthy food options and the prioritization of sports for boys over girls. In public schools, facilities may not be optimal; in private schools, girls’ access to facilities was limited.  Public school girls stated that their uniform dresses were inappropriate for exercising.

Conclusion: Our findings support the need to provide more healthy food options in Guatemalan schools. Data also suggest that special attention should be given to promoting physical activity for girls and making facilities available for their use.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Identify how Guatemalan adolescent girls perceive healthy weight. Describe the perceived barriers to achieve a healthy weight among adolescent girls in public and private schools. Analyze how girls perceive the school environment to promote, or not, physical activity in private and public schools.

Keyword(s): Adolescents, Obesity

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have participated in study design, data collection and analysis.
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.

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