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J Am Diet Assoc. 2004 Mar;104(3):387-94.

Counseling Latina mothers of preschool children about weight issues: suggestions for a new framework.

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Center for Weight and Health, College of Natural Resources, Department of Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology, University of California-Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720-3104, USA.



To assess Latina mothers' health beliefs and attitudes regarding early childhood weight issues and to use the information to update current nutrition education methods.


Data were collected in eight focus group sessions using a semistructured questionnaire.


Forty-three Latina mothers (and grandmothers) with children aged 2 to 5 years were recruited at five different Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children sites in California.


Transcripts of focus groups were imported into QSR NUD*IST software, facilitating in-depth iterative analysis of emergent themes.


Fifteen emergent themes were identified and organized into four functional domains relevant to nutrition education: health beliefs surrounding weight, impact and cause of overweight, life values and concerns, and strategies for making changes in children's eating and activity patterns. Information from this qualitative study demonstrates that the traditional nutrition counseling paradigm may not be effective with Latina mothers. In addition, cultural beliefs can be barriers to successful prevention and treatment of overweight. To ensure that culturally competent services are provided, educators must be prepared to adjust education approaches according to the cultural background of the clients. Key among the issues was mothers' difficulty acknowledging overweight among their children and their perception that health and weight were poorly associated. Certain cultural values were identified as barriers to adopting healthful behaviors. Mothers were able to identify specific ways in which nutrition education could be improved.


Our findings suggest that nutrition education efforts targeting Latina mothers of young children can be reframed to better address the belief system and cultural framework of the population, like identifying positive eating behaviors rather than focusing on a child's weight.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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