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To: (i) understand facilitators and barriers to healthy eating practices and physical activity in younger and older urban adolescent South African boys and girls; and (ii) understand how the views of caregivers interact with, and influence, adolescent behaviours.
Semi-structured focus group discussions (FGD) were conducted in July 2018. Data were analysed using thematic analysis.
Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa.
Seventy-five participants were stratified into eight FGD as follows: two for young boys and girls (10–12 years); two for older boys and girls (15–17 years); two for caregivers of young adolescents (boys and girls); and two for caregivers of older adolescents (boys and girls).
Unlike their caregivers, adolescents were not motivated to eat healthily and failed to appreciate the need to develop consistent patterns of both healthy eating and physical activity for their long-term health. Although adolescents gained independence with age, they commonly attributed unhealthy food choices to a lack of autonomy and, thereby, to the influence of their caregivers. Adolescents and caregivers perceived their engagement in physical activity according to distinct siloes of recreational and routine activity, respectively. Both similarities and differences in the drivers of healthy eating and physical activity exist in adolescents and caregivers, and should be targeted in future interventions.
Our study identified a complex paradigm of eating practices and physical activity in South African adolescents and their caregivers. We also highlighted the need for a new narrative in addressing the multifaceted and interrelated determinants of adolescent health within urban poor settings.
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