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To explore influences on adolescent diet and physical activity, from the perspectives of adolescents and their caregivers, in Jimma, Ethiopia.
Qualitative design, using focus group discussions (FGD).
A low-income setting in Jimma, Ethiopia.
Five FGD with adolescents aged 10–12 years and 15–17 years (n 41) and three FGD with parents (n 22) were conducted.
Adolescents displayed a holistic understanding of health comprising physical, social and psychological well-being. Social and cultural factors were perceived to be the main drivers of adolescent diet and physical activity. All participants indicated that caregivers dictated adolescents’ diet, as families shared food from the same plate. Meals were primarily determined by caregivers, whose choices were driven by food affordability and accessibility. Older adolescents, particularly boys, had opportunities to make independent food choices outside of the home which were driven by taste and appearance, rather than nutritional value. Many felt that adolescent physical activity was heavily influenced by gender. Girls’ activities included domestic work and family responsibilities, whereas boys had more free time to participate in outdoor games. Girls’ safety was reported to be a concern to caregivers, who were fearful of permitting their daughters to share overcrowded outdoor spaces with strangers.
Adolescents and caregivers spoke a range of social, economic and cultural influences on adolescent diet and physical activity. Adolescents, parents and the wider community need to be involved in the development and delivery of effective interventions that will take into consideration these social, economic and cultural factors.
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