It's all about the children: A participant-driven photo-elicitation study of Mexican-origin mothers' food choices

Program for Research in Nutrition and Health Disparities, Social and Behavioral Department, School of Rural Public Health, TAMU 1266, College Station, TX 77843, USA.
BMC Women's Health (Impact Factor: 1.5). 09/2011; 11(1):41. DOI: 10.1186/1472-6874-11-41
Source: PubMed


There is a desperate need to address diet-related chronic diseases in Mexican-origin women, particularly for those in border region colonias (Mexican settlements) and other new destination communities in rural and non-rural areas of the U.S. Understanding the food choices of mothers, who lead food and health activities in their families, provides one way to improve health outcomes in Mexican-origin women and their children. This study used a visual method, participant-driven photo-elicitation, and grounded theory in a contextual study of food choices from the perspectives of Mexican-origin mothers.
Teams of trained promotoras (female community health workers from the area) collected all data in Spanish. Ten Mexican-origin mothers living in colonias in Hidalgo County, TX completed a creative photography assignment and an in-depth interview using their photographs as visual prompts and examples. English transcripts were coded inductively by hand, and initial observations emphasized the salience of mothers' food practices in their routine care-giving. This was explored further by coding transcripts in the qualitative data analysis software Atlas.ti.
An inductive conceptual framework was created to provide context for understanding mothers' daily practices and their food practices in particular. Three themes emerged from the data: 1) a mother's primary orientation was toward her children; 2) leveraging resources to provide the best for her children; and 3) a mother's daily food practices kept her children happy, healthy, and well-fed. Results offer insight into the intricate meanings embedded in Mexican-origin mothers' routine food choices.
This paper provides a new perspective for understanding food choice through the eyes of mothers living in the colonias of South Texas -- one that emphasizes the importance of children in their routine food practices and the resilience of the mothers themselves. Additional research is needed to better understand mothers' perspectives and food practices with larger samples of women and among other socioeconomic groups.

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    • "Studies exploring the relative contributions of food environment attributes on obesity risk in the US have found that residents of ethnic minority and low income neighborhoods are more likely to experience limited access to food stores as well as limited availability of fruits and vegetables, compared to predominantly White and higher income neighborhoods [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]. Moreover, an association has been found between food purchasing preferences and cultural context that influences habitual dietary patterns for racial and ethnic minority groups in the US [7] [8] [9]. Yeh et al. 2008, explored barriers to fruit and vegetable consumption in the US and found that Latino immigrants were less likely to purchase fruits and vegetables that were unfamiliar in appearance, based on their country of origin [10]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Although individual-level dietary behavior among racial/ethnic minority groups in the US is influenced by cultural food preferences and socioeconomic position, few studies of the food store environment have simultaneously examined both factors. The objective of this cross-sectional study was to investigate the availability of culturally specific fruits and vegetables for African Americans and Latinos by levels of neighborhood deprivation. The 5 small central Illinois cities selected for the study have exhibited increasing numbers of both racial/ ethnic groups in the last decade. Methods: A validated audit tool was used to survey 118 food stores in 2008. Census 2000 block group data was used to create a neighborhood deprivation index (categorized as low, medium, and high) based on socioeconomic characteristics using principal component analysis. Statistical analyses were performed in SPSS version 17.0 to determine whether the availability of culturally specific fruits and vegetables (n = 31) varied by neighborhood levels of deprivation and store type. Results: Fewer than 50% of neighborhoods carried culturally specific fruits and vegetables, with the lowest availability found in low deprivation neighborhoods (p < 0.05). Culturally specific fruits and vegetables were most often found in neighborhoods with medium levels of deprivation, and in grocery stores (p < 0.05). Latino fruits and vegetables were less likely to be found across neighborhoods or in stores, compared to African-American fruits and vegetables. Conclusions: The limited availability of culturally specific fruits and vegetables for African Americans and Latinos highlights potential environmental challenges with adherence to daily dietary guidelines for fruit and vegetable consumption in these groups.
    Open Journal of Preventive Medicine 01/2013; 3(2). DOI:10.4236/ojpm.2013.32028
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    • "Culturally-sensitive research, especially among hard-to-reach populations, requires knowledge of the study population and trust of researchers by participants.[42] Research supports the importance of collaborating with trained promotoras who become trusted members of the research team while also serving as cultural brokers, having knowledge of the values, beliefs, and practices within Mexican-American households in the colonias.[43-45] Programs using community health workers (promotoras) have been some of the most successful in delivering primary and preventative health services and information in Mexican-American communities and specifically colonias.[6,45-49] "
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    ABSTRACT: Background The increasing numbers of colonias along the U.S.-Mexico border are characterized by disproportionately poor families of Mexican-origin, limited access to resources and health services, and heightened risk for obesity and diabetes. Despite consistent evidence supporting physical activity (PA) in prevention of chronic diseases, many individuals of Mexican-origin, including children, fail to meet PA recommendations. Environmental influences on PA, founded in ecological and social cognitive perspectives, have not been examined among children living in colonias. The purpose of this study was to identify and better understand (1) household and neighborhood environmental PA resources/supports, (2) perceived barriers to engaging in PA, and (3) PA offerings, locations, and transportation characteristics for Mexican-origin children living in colonias. Methods Data for this study were collected by promotora-researchers (indigenous community health workers trained in research methods) using face-to-face interviews conducted in Spanish. The sample consists of 94 mother-child dyads from Texas border colonias in Hidalgo County. Interviews included questionnaire items addressing PA barriers, household and neighborhood environmental support assessments conducted with each dyad, and open-ended questions that were coded to identify availability and locations of PA opportunities and transportation options. Descriptive statistics were calculated and differences between genders, birth countries, and BMI categories of children were determined using chi-square tests. Results All children were of Mexican-origin. The most frequently reported barriers were unleashed dogs in the street, heat, bad weather, traffic, no streetlights, and no place like a park to exercise. Prominent locations for current PA included schools, home, and parks. Common PA options for children were exercise equipment, running, playing, and sports. Environmental assessments identified exercise equipment (bicycles/tricycles, balls, etc.…), paved/good streets, yard/patio space, and social norms as the most frequent household or neighborhood resources within these colonias. Differences in PA barriers, options, and environmental resources for genders, birth countries, and BMI categories were detected. Conclusions This study suggests that PA environmental resources, barriers, and opportunities for colonias children are similar to previous studies and distinctively unique. As expected, built resources in these communities are limited and barriers exist; however, knowledge of PA opportunities and available PA resources within colonias households and neighborhoods offers insight to help guide future research, policy, and PA initiatives.
    BMC Public Health 01/2013; 13(1):14. DOI:10.1186/1471-2458-13-14 · 2.26 Impact Factor
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    • "Traditional gender roles were another constraint that shaped food-related technical practices within colonia homes. As observed elsewhere by Abarca [45] and Johnson and colleagues [48] the kitchen was set aside for the Mexican-American women in this study, and household labor was delineated according to traditional gendered expectations for low-income Mexican-immigrant families [49]. A public/private distinction shaped technical practices within the households. "
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    ABSTRACT: Mexican-origin women in the U.S. living in colonias (new-destination Mexican-immigrant communities) along the Texas-Mexico border suffer from a high incidence of food insecurity and diet-related chronic disease. Understanding environmental factors that influence food-related behaviors among this population will be important to improving the well-being of colonia households. This article focuses on cultural repertoires that enable food choice and the everyday uses of technology in food-related practice by Mexican-immigrant women in colonia households under conditions of material hardship. Findings are presented within a conceptual framework informed by concepts drawn from sociological accounts of technology, food choice, culture, and material hardship. Field notes were provided by teams of promotora-researchers (indigenous community health workers) and public-health professionals trained as participant observers. They conducted observations on three separate occasions (two half-days during the week and one weekend day) within eight family residences located in colonias near the towns of Alton and San Carlos, Texas. English observations were coded inductively and early observations stressed the importance of technology and material hardship in food-related behavior. These observations were further explored and coded using the qualitative data package Atlas.ti. Technology included kitchen implements used in standard and adapted configurations and household infrastructure. Residents employed tools across a range of food-related activities identified as forms of food acquisition, storage, preparation, serving, feeding and eating, cleaning, and waste processing. Material hardships included the quality, quantity, acceptability, and uncertainty dimensions of food insecurity, and insufficient consumption of housing, clothing and medical care. Cultural repertoires for coping with material hardship included reliance on inexpensive staple foods and dishes, and conventional and innovative technological practices. These repertoires expressed the creative agency of women colonia residents. Food-related practices were constrained by climate, animal and insect pests, women's gender roles, limitations in neighborhood and household infrastructure, and economic and material resources. This research points to the importance of socioeconomic and structural factors such as gender roles, economic poverty and material hardship as constraints on food choice and food-related behavior. In turn, it emphasizes the innovative practices employed by women residents of colonias to prepare meals under these constraints.
    International Journal for Equity in Health 05/2012; 11(1):25. DOI:10.1186/1475-9276-11-25 · 1.71 Impact Factor
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