The environment in which people live affects food and physical activity decisions, but low-income communities often lack the resources to support more healthful choices. Understanding the perceived barriers and facilitators to engaging in healthful practices in communities is an important first step in developing targeted interventions to improve health.
To determine Extension nutrition educators’ perceptions about the healthfulness of the environment in the communities they serve.
Study Design, Setting, Participants
Focus groups (n = 16) and in-depth interviews (n = 6) were conducted in English (n = 11) and Spanish (n = 5) with Extension nutrition educators (n = 84) working in low-income communities in Kansas, Florida, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, and West Virginia. Trained focus group moderators used a semi-structured script to ask questions about the healthfulness of the community environment in which they work.
Audio recorded focus groups and in-depth interviews were transcribed verbatim and content analyzed to identify themes.
Across all states, participants described a healthy lifestyle as a multifaceted approach to wellness that promotes healthy eating, physical activity, and mental and spiritual health. Perceived barriers for English and Spanish participants included the lack of access to and availability of healthy food and public transportation; lack of nutrition education and nutrition resources; and limited mental health resources. Spanish participants emphasized the need for culturally and linguistically appropriate nutrition materials and suggested that participant attrition from education programs was due to the increased anxiety related to participants’ immigration status. Perceived facilitators were limited but included access to trustworthy education resources and food banks/pantries.
Extension nutrition educators across several states listed similar barriers and facilitators to a healthy lifestyle for low-income individuals. Data will be used to develop focus group questions for low-income community residents with a long-range goal of developing a survey to measure perceived healthfulness of low-income communities.