GHES LMIC Fellow 2019-2020
FELLOWSHIP SITE: University of Capetown, South Africa
U.S. INSTITUTION: STANFORD UNIVERSITY
Project Title: Socioecological levers which influence diet and physical activity behaviour in South African adolescents: a pilot study
Dietary and physical activity (PA) behaviours, built and policy environments have all been associated with health status of adolescents in developed countries. Yet, research on these risk factors in adolescence, and interventions to address them in LMICs are limited. Nowhere are these problems more evident than in South Africa, having one of the highest levels of inequity, globally. Using mixed methods, the proposed study aims to assess the sociocultural, environmental, ecological and policy variables that, when combined, add to the juxtaposition of obesity, food insecurity and physical inactivity in South African adolescents. The objective is to explore household, neighbourhood, school, the journey from home-to-school-based exposures that may influence diet and PA behaviour in adolescents, from low to higher-middle income communities. Along with the measurement of diet and PA behaviours (using questionnaires and objective measurements), and using a mobile device application, we will ask participants to capture the food and physical activity environments in their homes, on their journeys to and from school and in and around school, using a citizen science approach. Based on photographs and accompanying audio-narratives, the citizen scientists will be asked, as a group, to prioritise those factors which may be barriers or facilitators to healthy food choices and physical activity opportunities, and more specifically, those which may be able to be changed. We will train the citizen scientists to gather evidence, disseminate findings, and change their environment through developing community partnerships and advocacy to negotiate solutions to barriers to active living and healthy eating. We hope that this study will contribute to understanding unique variables that may impact on diet and physical activity behaviour in adolescents; and enable and inspire adolescents to become lifelong social catalysts for positive change in their own communities and beyond.