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Behav Sci (Basel). 2017 Aug 4;7(3). pii: E49. doi: 10.3390/bs7030049.

The Influence of Ethnic and Mainstream Cultures on African Americans' Health Behaviors: A Qualitative Study.

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School of Psychology, UNSW Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia.
School of Psychology, UNSW Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia.
School of Social Sciences and Psychology, University of Western Sydney, Penrith 2751, Australia.



Culture plays an important role in shaping individuals' health behaviors. This qualitative research examines the relationship between African Americans' ethnic and mainstream cultures and their health behaviors (i.e., food intake and physical activity).


This study used in-depth semi-structured interview format with a group of 25 African Americans to examine the influence of ethnic and mainstream culture on African Americans' food intake and physical activity. Thematic analysis was used to identify common themes and patterns related to African Americans' health behaviors as well as to report these patterns within data.


The present study found that African Americans position both their ethnic and mainstream culture as important influences on their health behaviors pertaining to food intake and physical activity. Most participants reported taking advantage of "the best of both worlds" by engaging in picking and choosing healthy behaviors from both cultures to which they belong, and they perceived preparing healthy makeovers as a way to optimize their health. They also identified a range of practical considerations that can facilitate or hinder engagement in healthy eating and physical activity (e.g., affordability, social support). Participants discussed a number of other positive (e.g., resilience, spirituality) and negative (e.g., experience of discrimination) influences on health behaviors.


African Americans consider both their ethnic and mainstream cultures important in shaping their health behaviors. These cultural influences need to be understood in the context of other psycho-socio-environmental factors that affect individuals' health behaviors. The current study has practical implications for designing health promotion programs for African Americans.


culture; ethnic culture; health; health behaviors; healthy makeovers; mainstream culture; picking and choosing

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