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Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Public Health

Year Degree Awarded

2017

Month Degree Awarded

September

First Advisor

Elena T. Carbone

Second Advisor

Patricia Beffa-Negrini

Third Advisor

Carol Bigelow

Subject Categories

Nutrition

Abstract

One in three adolescents in the U.S. is overweight or obese. The dietary habits of this population are concerning as few meet current dietary recommendations for consuming fruits and vegetables. Equally troubling among this group is the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and the lack of physical activity. Studies that investigate the link between nutrition knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors have shown mixed results and new methods to investigate this relationship are needed. Food literacy is a new term that has risen out of the health and nutrition literacy fields. Food literacy seeks to examine the complex relationship between knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors from the perspective of food and not individual nutrients. Adolescence is a unique life stage when there is development of decision-making skills. Food literacy programs are ideally suited to this stage because the concept focuses on building capacity to operationalize healthy decisions regarding food. New methods are also needed, to help increase engagement and participation in food-related programs. Adolescents are digital natives. Eighty-seven percent have access to a computer, 88% have access to a cellphone, and 92% go online daily, from these devices. Driving the use of cellphones is social media and text messaging. In fact, 91% of adolescents use their cellphone for texting, sending an average of 67 messages/day. Adolescent’s pervasive use of technology, in particular cellphones, provides an opportunity to investigate the potential of this medium to engage participants in education about food. Another novel method to engage adolescents in food-related education is the use of community-based participatory research (CBPR). CBPR is a collaborative approach that includes community members in the research process. The approach incorporates sharing of ideas between community members and researchers, values mutual decision-making, and empowers participants to plan activities and make changes they see as beneficial to their community. CBPR is not often used with adolescents, and no current research has used CBPR to inform a technology-driven, food literacy program for low-income, ethnically diverse adolescents. Filling this gap will add to the understanding of the use of innovative programs and ideas to engage adolescents and help them develop healthy eating behaviors.

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Nutrition Commons

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