Refugees have nutrition-related needs that are different from other populations in their host country, due to prior trauma, cultural values, beliefs, diversity, and language. To effectively address their nutritional needs for optimal health outcomes, it is important to understand barriers but also assets, such as gardening and cooking skills, and a network of social support. Nutrition education should be tailored to the needs, skills, and preferences of refugee audiences.
This study examines barriers and assets that influence nutrition behaviors and preferences for nutrition education among Somali refugees in Utah.
Design, Setting, and Participants
Semi-structured phone interviews were conducted with 20 Somali refugees (19 females, and 1 male) in Utah who self-identified as food gatekeepers for their families and had lived in Utah for < 5 years. Interview questions were revised after review by an expert panel. Questions assessed barriers and assets for healthy eating and preferences of approaches for nutrition education. Interviews were conducted in Somali.
Audio recordings of interviews were translated to English, transcribed, and uploaded into NVivo for storage and organization. A multi-step process by two independent researchers was used to code and analyze the data, and identify codes and themes.
Barriers to healthy eating included: availability of ingredients and equipment needed for cooking; accessibility of food, transportation, finding items in grocery stores, language barriers; affordability of food and budgeting. Assets included enjoyment of cooking, including children in food preparation, and social support. Preferences for nutrition education included group education with a Somali instructor from a professional background. Content of interest included food safety, cooking American foods, and child nutrition.
Identifying and addressing specific assets and barriers and using an educator from the target culture may improve the effectiveness of nutrition education targeted to Somali refugee populations.