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Glob Health Promot. 2013 Dec;20(4 Suppl):65-81. doi: 10.1177/1757975913502240.

Physical activity, nutrition and behavior change in Latin America: a systematic review.

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1.Department of Psychology, Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia.


Physical activity (PA) and nutrition are key health behaviors underlying the design and implementation of prevention strategies for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Latin America. Nevertheless, research still reports low prevalence of PA and fruit and vegetable consumption throughout the region. This paper aims at reviewing the ways in which models of behavior change theory have been applied in study development and implementation regarding nutrition and PA in Latin America. In August 2011 we conducted a systematic literature review of the behavior change studies that targeted such NCDs risk factors published until then. Out of 4279 surveyed abstracts, only 29 corresponded to articles that met our inclusion criteria. Twenty-six articles reported the application of behavior change theory, with the trans-theoretical model (n = 12) being the most frequently used. Other theories and models included the socio-ecological model (n = 4), cognitive theory (n = 3), social cognitive theory (n = 2) and theories related to health education and counseling (n = 5). Based on this review, we recommend that the application of behavior change theory be explicitly reported in Latin American peer-reviewed articles, and that outcome evaluations include behavior change constructs so as to better assess their contribution to the effectiveness of nutrition and PA interventions in the region. Furthermore, we state the need for a better understanding of the behavior change mechanisms that may be specific to the Latin American context.


health behavior; health promotion; nutrition; physical activity

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