Maternal and Child Health Journal

, Volume 22, Issue 7, pp 958–967 | Cite as

Challenges and Facilitators to Promoting a Healthy Food Environment and Communicating Effectively with Parents to Improve Food Behaviors of School Children

  • Hiershenee B. Luesse
  • Rachel Paul
  • Heewon L. Gray
  • Pamela Koch
  • Isobel Contento
  • Victoria Marsick


Background Childhood obesity is a major public health concern and families play an important role. Improving strategies to reach parents and directing tailored nutrition education to them is needed. Purpose To investigate the challenges and facilitators to promoting a healthy environment at home and to identify communication preferences to inform intervention strategies for effectively reaching low-income urban minority families. Procedure Semi-structured focus group interviews were conducted with four groups involving 16 low-income urban parents (94% female; 88% Hispanic/Latino, 12% African American) of elementary school children. Interviews were transcribed and analyzed applying Social Cognitive Theory and using in-vivo coding. Main Findings The most common barriers to parents providing healthy foods to their children were accommodating child preferences and familial opposition. Parents showed intentionality to engage in healthy behaviors, and often shared procedural knowledge for reaching health goals. The analyses of desired communication channels yielded major preferences: tailored information, information provided through multiple mediums, appropriate duration/frequency of messages, and presented from a voice of authority. Conclusion and Implication While parents expressed desires to be healthy, the home food environment presented substantial challenges. Multi-media supports such as workshops, flyers, and text messaging may be useful to facilitate the sharing of information to minimize the tensions between intentionality and reaching desired goals to be healthy. Some parents thought that information received through text messaging could be easily shared and would act as a voice of authority to support child behavior change.


Home environment Childhood obesity Social cognitive theory Qualitative study 



The authors thank parent coordinators for their technical assistance with this study. A portion of this study has been presented in abstract form at the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior conference in Wisconsin, 2015.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research, Evaluation, Strategy Consulting8RES, LLCNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Department of Heath & BehaviorTeachers College, Columbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Department of Community and Family Health, College of Public HealthUniversity of South FloridaTampaUSA
  4. 4.Department of Art and HumanitiesTeachers College Columbia UniversityNew YorkUSA

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