Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Using Focus Groups to Develop a Nutrition Education Video for High School Students

Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Using Focus Groups to Develop a Nutrition Education Video for High School Students

Article excerpt

Healthy food habits established early in life persist into adulthood and can help prevent and delay chronic diseases.[1-3] According to the findings of the National Adolescent Student Health Survey,[4] most high school students are aware that excessive intake of sugar, fat, and salt increases one's risk for health problems such as heart disease and hypertension. However, most students cannot choose between foods based on fat, sugar, salt, and fiber content. The survey also found that more than half the students ate three or more snacks a day; most of these snacks were high in fat, sugar, and salt.

If the Healthy People 2000 objective to "increase to 75% the proportion of the nation's schools that provide nutrition education" is to be met,[2] adolescents must be empowered with the requisite knowledge, attitudes, and skills to adopt these changes. One way to help achieve these goals is to develop effective nutrition education materials and curricula.[5] Understanding adolescents' nutrition knowledge and interests, as well as educational media and strategies to effectively reach them, is necessary to develop effective nutrition education methods, materials, and curricula.

Videotaped nutrition education messages have been applied in a variety of settings, and they have become a valuable supplements to current teaching methods.[6,7] In October 1994, the Nutrition Education Training Program (NETP), Florida Dept. of Education, commissioned a project to develop a nutrition promotion package for Florida high schools. Some project objectives were to: 1) identify barriers and motivators to healthful eating among adolescents; 2) examine adolescents' attitudes toward nutrition education; 3) identify factors that influence school meal choices; and 4) develop a nutrition education video. Data on the first three objectives are published elsewhere.[8-9] This paper describes how focus groups were used to develop a nutrition education video and a teacher's guide for use in Florida high schools.

Focus groups allow participants to share experiences, opinions, and attitudes on issues.[10-11] Nutrition education researchers have used focus group interviews to assess beliefs and attitudes, design educational materials and programs, and evaluate educational programs. The goal is not to generalize. Instead, focus group data are used by program administrators and educators to assess the needs of their clients, to determine how particular programs work, and to determine how well the educational materials serve their clients.[12-14]



In spring 1995, a pilot study was conducted with four focus groups of ninth grade students at geographically diverse sites in Florida: Jacksonville, Ft. Lauderdale, Sarasota, Quincy, and Gainesville. Focus groups consisted of six to eight students, an optimal size for a focus group.[12] Conducted within a week of each other, interviews lasted an hour and a half, on average. Participants in the four groups included six White males; seven White females; eight African American females; three African American males; two Hispanic males; one Hispanic female; and two Asian males. The pilot interview, conducted with a youth group from a religious organization that served a White middle-class population, consisted of three White males and three White females. Written parental consent was obtained for subjects to participate in the groups. Students were recruited by teachers, school administrators, and health educators.


The authors developed a focus group interview guide (Figure 1) based on literature reviews in the areas of focus group research, educational media, adolescent nutrition, eating patterns, and sources of nutrition information. With the primary author moderating, interviews lasted an average of an hour and a half each. Participants each received $12 for working, and their interviews were audio-taped and transcribed on a portable computer by a research assistant. …

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