Date of Award

5-2012

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Food Science and Human Nutrition

Advisor

Adrienne A. White

Second Committee Member

Alfred Bushway

Third Committee Member

Shihfen Tu

Abstract

The man-made elements of the environment either support or inhibit healthful eating and physical activity within community settings. This study's goal was to determine the factors that impact the nutrition and physical activity behavior of adults, 18 and older, who were the main preparers of food for 2-12 year old children. The interest was to identify factors that may reduce the risk of childhood obesity. Objectives included identifying environmental supports for healthful living through an environmental audit in the Cobscook Bay region, specifically Eastport and Calais, in Washington County, Maine and to identify health-related quality of life, kitchen proficiency and child feeding practices of the adult food preparers, as these factors relate to risk for childhood obesity. A 51-item online survey was administered to 70 participants (mean age= 39.97 ± 12.21; 91% female; 84% White, 10% Native American). A steering committee composed of researchers and community members guided the research. Environmental measures were the Nutrition Environment Measures in Stores and Restaurants and the Rural Active Living Assessment (RALA). Behavioral measures were the Cooperative Extension Behavior Checklist, Birch et al's Child Feeding Questionnaire, Centers for Disease Control Quality of Life Questionnaire, and demographics. Use of income eligible programs (lEPs), like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, was determined. Descriptive statistics and t-test comparisons were performed. Results from the RALA indicated that areas specifically designed for water activities were located between 5-15 miles off island. Within 5 miles of the town center there were public recreation areas. Recreation facilities (skating rinks and dance studios) were lacking. Of the 8 street segments assessed in Eastport, 7 were rated "fair" and 1 "good" for providing safe and aesthetically pleasing walkways. In Calais, 3 segments rated "good" and 5 rated "fair". Adding pedestrian signs and lighting could improve ratings. All grocery stores were "fair" for supporting healthful food environments for healthful food options. Ratings were mainly related to differences seen in pricing healthful food options. Healthier options like low sugar cereals, baked chips, and low-fat baked items were priced higher compared to their high sugar, high fat counterpart. Of participants, 45% reported used lEPs. Users of IEP, compared to non-users, reported similar kitchen proficiency skills except for less use of nutrition labels before making food purchases (t(68)=-1.191,P=.02), lower overall health (t(68)=2.52,P=0.014), more days of poor emotional health (t(67)=2.96,P=0.004), and more days when physical/mental health impaired daily activities (t(68)=2.19,P=0.032). Both IEPS and NIEPs reported similar number of days per month felt healthy and full of energy. On a scale ranging from 1=never to 5=always, all participants reported being responsible for what and how much their child ate (mean=4.5±0.63), restricting (mean=3.2±0.88) and monitoring (mean=3.6±1.1) child intake. While few of the participants (12%) were concerned about their children's weight, about 70% of lEPs and 64% of NIEPS perceived themselves as overweight. GIS software provided a pictorial description of the built environment and nutrition behavior within Cobscook Bay. Mapping provides a visual representation of data allowing community stakeholders to view areas of need and make informed public health decisions.

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