Community stakeholders and Extension nutrition educators (NEs) are invested in the health of their under-resourced communities and should be included in the development of interventions designed to improve the health of their residents. These groups understand barriers and facilitators to healthy living that can help inform appropriate health interventions. As perceptions can differ, input from both groups can provide a more well-rounded approach.
To compare Extension NE and community stakeholder perceptions on the healthfulness of the environment of under-resourced communities in the 5 Florida Extension districts
Study Design, Settings, Participants
Focus groups (n = 8) with Extension NEs (N = 49) and in-depth interviews (n = 10) with community stakeholders were conducted using semi-structured scripts following the Social Cognitive Theory to explore perceptions on the healthfulness of the communities.
Focus groups and in-depth interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim, and coded. Cross-tab analysis was used to compare data from the districts’ participants.
Overall, participants described healthy eating and physical activity as the main components of a healthy lifestyle. They also viewed access to and availability of food as an essential part of a healthy community. While both NEs and stakeholders perceived food access (Northwest, Southwest), safety (Central), and lack of education (Southeast) as major barriers to a healthy lifestyle, NEs also identified lack of knowledge and education as major barriers, whereas stakeholders perceived financial constraints (ie, unemployment) as the primary challenge. When asked about resources available to address challenges, NEs (all districts) did not perceive many, which they attributed to a lack of promotion of resources. In contrast, stakeholders (all districts) perceived multiple opportunities available but noted a lack of participation from community members.
Extension NEs and community stakeholders provide unique perspectives about barriers and opportunities in the under-resourced communities they serve. Differences among the districts and between participants highlight diverse characteristics of these communities, which should be considered when developing interventions.