Culturally Tailored Messaging for Hispanic Youth in an mHealth Intervention – UROP Spring Symposium 2021

Culturally Tailored Messaging for Hispanic Youth in an mHealth Intervention

Esha Elahi


Pronouns: she/her

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 11
Presenter: 4

Event Link


Background: Obesity is prevalent among adolescents in America, which puts millions of youth at a risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes, and liver disease which can lead to shorter life spans. The prevalence of excess weight among Black and Hispanic youth is particularly high compared to Caucasian youth (40% vs 38% vs 31% respectively). Contributing to this higher risk of obesity for minority youth is the fact that many Black and Hispanic youth live in families with low-socioeconomic status (65% and 62% respectively). The use of mobile health applications incorporating personally relevant content such as culturally tailored messages and images, is a promising means of helping Black and Hispanic youth achieve and maintain a healthy weight. We sought to examine the correlation, if any, between Hispanic youth’s ethnic identity and their image and language preferences used in a health app to prompt Hispanic youth to make healthier choices at fast-food venues. Methods: In the Spring/Summer of 2020, a survey was sent out to Hispanic adolescents who were recruited nationwide. The 40 item survey included questions about participant’s ethnic identity using the Multi Ethnic Identity Measure (MEIM), eating habits, and messaging content preferences. Based on the results from the survey, each participant’s Ethnic Identity Score (EIS) was calculated. EIS, which determines the strength of a participant’s connection with their ethnic identity, can range from 4 (high EIS) to 1 (low EIS). Images were presented with and without Hispanic representation as typically portrayed by the media. Participants were asked to select which images they prefer. Descriptive statistics were calculated and comparisons made of image preferences by ethnic identity scores. Results: The average age of participants (n=22) was 16.05 years old (range 13 -17). The majority were male (55%) and all self identified as Hispanic/LatinX. The mean ethnic identity score overall was 3.37 (3.62 for girls; 3.17 for boys). As anticipated the mean EIS for those who preferred messages in Spanglish was higher than the mean EIS of those who preferred messages in English (3.5 vs 3.26 respectively). Using the mean EIS (rounded to 3.4) we classified scores of 3.4 or less as low EIS or “less ethnocentric’ and those above 3.4 as high EIS or “Ëśmore ethnocentric.’ Out of 9 images tested, 4 images were preferred by participants with a higher EIS (the images portrayed people with Hispanic features as depicted in the media), 2 images were preferred by participants with a lower EIS (images portrayed people with less easily identifiable Hispanic features), and 3 images received mixed responses. Conclusion: The scores from the Multi Ethnic Identity Survey can help guide culturally tailored messages on nutrition for Hispanic and LatinX youth, and may help guide the selection of images to be used. However, we acknowledge that this approach is nuanced and more research should be done to increase the effectiveness of cultural tailoring for Hispanic/LatinX youth.

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

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