Adolescent Eating Habits and Motivation at the Initiation of an mHealth Behavior Study – UROP Spring Symposium 2021

Adolescent Eating Habits and Motivation at the Initiation of an mHealth Behavior Study

Xiaoli Zhu


Pronouns: she

Research Mentor(s): Susan Woolford, Associate Professor
Research Mentor School/College/Department: Pediatrics, Michigan Medicine
Presentation Date: Thursday, April 22, 2021
Session: Session 3 (1pm-1:50pm)
Breakout Room: Room 20
Presenter: 6

Event Link


Background: In the United States, obesity is the most common chronic illness among adolescents, and it is especially prevalent in Black/African American and Hispanic/LatinX populations. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of obesity for children aged 2 to 19 years old was 25.8% for Hispanic youth and 22% for non-Hispanic Black youth, compared to only 14.1% for non-Hispanic White youth. Excess weight has put millions of Black and Hispanic/LatinX adolescents in the US at risk for morbidity and premature mortality. However, communications technology offers a novel way to deliver tailored health behavior interventions for these youth. As part of a larger project to design an app to help adolescents make healthy choices at fast food restaurants (FFR), we assessed participants’ fast food eating habits and their willingness to consider making changes when eating out. Methods: In the Spring/Summer of 2020, Hispanic/LatinX adolescents between 13 and 17 years of age were recruited nationwide via using Facebook Advertising to participate in an online survey. The 40-item survey included questions regarding ethnic identity using the Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure (MEIM), preferences for images and messages to be included in the app, and their typical fast food eating habits. Specifically, adolescents were asked about whether they typically order in FFR or go through the drive through, dine in or take out, who accompanied them on trips to FFR, and the kind of food they order (snacks vs. meals). In regard to their likelihood of making changes to their typical order, a Likert-type scale was used ranging from Very Likely/Willing to Very Unlikely/Unwilling. Descriptive data were calculated and the results can be seen below. Results: The average age of the participants (n = 22) was 16 years old and most (55%) were male. All adolescents identified as Hispanic/LatinX and indicated that they typically eat at fast food restaurants at least 3 times per week. In regards to their eating habits, participants preferred ordering food at the drive-through (59%) over dining-in (36%) or carrying out (4.6%). Results showed that participants tended to go to fast food restaurants with their parents most of the time (86%), and they purchased a meal (86%) rather than a snack (13.6%). Almost half of the participants indicated that they were very willing to try new foods (45%) and somewhat willing to make healthy changes to their regular order (45.5%), but fewer were open to asking for changes to menu items with only 27.3% indicating that they were somewhat willing to make such substitutions. Conclusions: These data from Hispanic/LatinX youth about eating habits and their willingness to consider making healthy substitutions to their Fast Food orders will inform the development of the Health Kick app. This app, designed to prompt healthy choices at the point of purchase will be tailored to time of day and based on the findings from this study, it will be optimized for usage in the most common situations reported. More data should be collected to ensure that the eating habits of adolescents from a variety of backgrounds are used to further guide future mHealth interventions.

Authors: Xiaoli Zhu, Juliet Villegas, Aria Grabowski, Theresa Kowalski-Dobson, Susan Woolford
Research Method: Clinical Research

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