Perception and media-related intervention strategies to address obesity among Hispanic communities




Figueroa Bautista, Roger

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Background: Obesity is a major public health problem in the United States (US) and is disproportionally affecting Hispanics, causing significant health and economic burdens. Many challenges and barrier limit Hispanics' access to healthful opportunities and health information. In addition, Hispanics appear to have a misperception about their weight status. Ethnic media may play an important role in informing the community about obesity prevention. This study aimed to explore the perception of obesity and what media related strategies can be used for obesity prevention among the Hispanic communities; especially those living in low-income neighborhoods and predominantly Spanish speakers.

Methods: This qualitative study involved in-depth interviews with a purposeful sample of Hispanic adults in San Antonio. Sixteen interviews were conducted using a semi-structured guide, audio-taped and transcribed verbatim. Inductive content analysis was used to identify themes.

Results: Participants were aware of the severity, consequences and contributing factors of obesity in the Hispanic community. Media, especially TV and Internet were the primary information sources with both positive and negative impacts on the communities regarding obesity-related health issues. Participants suggested media-related strategies including regulations on junk food commercials; frequent public health announcements and healthy messaging; role modeling; and body imagery that help community recognize the seriousness of obesity.

Conclusion: Hispanic residents are concerned with obesity and were able to provide potential solutions to address the escalating obesity problem. Spanish media represents a potential resource to inform, educate and motivate the Hispanic community to live a healthier lifestyle and thus reduce the risk of obesity and diabetes. Future media-related obesity prevention strategies using TV and Internet should focus on frequent public health announcements of local government initiatives, programs and events; role modeling for healthy lifestyle; educating community in recognizing obesity issues; as well as advocating for regulations on junk food commercials. Future research is needed to analyze the current health communication content regarding obesity in major Spanish-language media sources. Also, future research using a quantitative approach is needed to confirm the finding from the current qualitative study. Content analysis of the current obesity-related health information in major Spanish-language media sources will help better develop effective health communication through the media. In addition, research is also needed to explore the potential effect of "fat body imagery" on changing the Hispanic community's weight perception. Such studies should be conducted with caution to avoid harming the community (e.g. psychological issues on the obese public).


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Hispanics, Obesity, Perception, Spanish Media



Health and Kinesiology