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Qualitative study exploring healthy eating practices and physical activity among adolescent girls in rural South Africa
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Epidemiology and Global Health.
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2014 (English)In: BMC Pediatrics, ISSN 1471-2431, Vol. 14, 211- p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]


Dietary behaviours and physical activity are modifiable risk factors to address increasing levels of obesity among children and adolescents, and consequently to reduce later cardiovascular and metabolic disease. This paper explores perceptions, attitudes, barriers, and facilitators related to healthy eating and physical activity among adolescent girls in rural South Africa.

Methods: A qualitative study was conducted in the rural Agincourt subdistrict, covered by a health and sociodemographic surveillance system, in Mpumalanga province, South Africa. Semistructured "duo-interviews" were carried out with 11 pairs of adolescent female friends aged 16 to 19 years. Thematic content analysis was used.


The majority of participants considered locally grown and traditional foods, especially fruits and vegetables, to be healthy. Their consumption was limited by availability, and these foods were often sourced from family or neighbourhood gardens. Female caregivers and school meal programmes facilitated healthy eating practices. Most participants believed in the importance of breakfast, even though for the majority, limited food within the household was a barrier to eating breakfast before going to school. The majority cited limited accessibility as a major barrier to healthy eating, and noted the increasing intake of "convenient and less healthy foods". Girls were aware of the benefits of physical activity and engaged in various physical activities within the home, community, and schools, including household chores, walking long distances to school, traditional dancing, and extramural activities such as netball and soccer.

Conclusions: The findings show widespread knowledge about healthy eating and the benefits of consuming locally grown and traditional food items in a population that is undergoing nutrition transition. Limited access and food availability are strong barriers to healthy eating practices. School meal programmes are an important facilitator of healthy eating, and breakfast provision should be considered as an extension of the meal programme. Walking to school, cultural dance, and extramural activities can be encouraged and thus are useful facilitators for increasing physical activity among rural adolescent girls, where the prevalence of overweight and obesity is increasing.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014. Vol. 14, 211- p.
Keyword [en]
Adolescent, Barriers, Eating; Facilitators, Girls, Healthy, Practices, Physical activity, Pairs, Agincourt
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-93827DOI: 10.1186/1471-2431-14-211ISI: 000341156700001PubMedID: 25164604OAI: diva2:753586
Available from: 2014-10-08 Created: 2014-10-01 Last updated: 2015-04-29Bibliographically approved

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