Maternal and Child Health Journal

, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 535–547 | Cite as

Healthy Eating and Harambee: Curriculum Development for a Culturally-Centered Bio-Medically Oriented Nutrition Education Program to Reach African American Women of Childbearing Age

  • Srimathi Kannan
  • Arlene V. Sparks
  • J. DeWitt Webster
  • Ambika Krishnakumar
  • Julie Lumeng


The purpose was to develop, implement and evaluate a peer-led nutrition curriculum Healthy Eating and Harambee that addresses established objectives of maternal and infant health and to shift the stage for African American women of childbearing age in Genesee County toward healthier dietary patterns using a socio-cultural and biomedical orientation. The PEN-3 model, which frames culture in the context of health promotion interventions, was integrated with the Transtheoretical Model to guide this 13-week pre-test/post-test curriculum. Materials developed included soul food plate visuals, a micronutrient availability worksheet, a fruit stand, and gardening kits. Learning activities included affirmations, stories, case-scenarios, point-of-purchase product recognition, church health teams, and community health fairs. We investigated health-promoting dietary behaviors (consumption of more fruits and vegetables (F&V), serving more F&V to their families, and moderating dietary sodium and fat intakes), and biomedical behaviors (self-monitoring blood pressure and exercising) across five stages of change. Session attendance and program satisfaction were assessed. N = 102 women participated (mean age = 27.5 years). A majority (77%) reported adopting at least one healthy eating behavior (moderating sodium, serving more F&V to their families), 23% adopted at least two such behaviors (reading food labels for sodium; using culinary herbs/spices; serving more F&V to their families), and 45% adopted both dietary (moderating sodium; eating more fruits) and biomedical behaviors. Participants and facilitators favorably evaluated the curriculum and suggested improvements. A multi-conceptual approach coupled with cultural and biomedical tailoring has potential to promote young African American women’s movement to more advanced stages of change and improve self-efficacy for fruit and vegetable intake, dietary sodium moderation, and self-monitoring blood pressure and physical activity.


African Americans Stages of change Nutrition education materials PEN-3 Nutrition curriculum Women of childbearing age 



The Healthy Eating Project was funded by Ruth Mott Community Foundation. We are indebted to Dr. Collins Airhihenbuwa (Pennsylvania State University Department of Biobehavioral Health, College of Health and Human Development) for his guidance related to the application of the PEN-3 theoretical model that was instrumental in the design, development, implementation and evaluation of the Healthy Eating and Harambee nutrition education curriculum. We also thank the grassroots community organizations in the Flint area for their support and participation in this research project.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Srimathi Kannan
    • 1
  • Arlene V. Sparks
    • 2
  • J. DeWitt Webster
    • 3
  • Ambika Krishnakumar
    • 4
  • Julie Lumeng
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Nutrition, School of Public Health and Health SciencesUniversity of MassachusettsAmherstUSA
  2. 2.Genesee County Community Action Resource DepartmentFlintUSA
  3. 3.Department of Global and Community HealthGeorge Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA
  4. 4.Department of Child and Family StudiesCollege of Human Studies and Health Professions, Syracuse UniversitySyracuseUSA
  5. 5.Center for Human Growth and Development, Department of Pediatrics and Communicable DiseasesUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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