Academic journal article Perspectives in Public Health

Culinary Efficacy: An Exploratory Study of Skills, Confidence, and Healthy Cooking Competencies among University Students

Academic journal article Perspectives in Public Health

Culinary Efficacy: An Exploratory Study of Skills, Confidence, and Healthy Cooking Competencies among University Students

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

The threat to public health and the public health system posed by Type 2 diabetes and childhood obesity has garnered widespread attention across the globe, but particularly in the United States, which ranks third in cases of Type 2 diabetes,1,2 research indicates that these diseases will continue to increase morbidity and mortality rates if left unchecked.1 The impacts of overweight and obesity and the health threats they pose have been extensively covered in the media. Policy makers at the state and local level continue to search for solutions to this public health crisis. Research has indicated that the current generation of children and young adults may be facing shorter life spans than those of their parents due to the prevalence of paediatric obesity.3 Studies have shown that the rates of negative dietary impacts have risen,4 as have the healthcare costs associated with this rising prevalence.5,6

Health issues often are solved by increase in medical technology or clinical interventions. Health and nutrition experts agree that there is no single solution to this crisis and that it will take more than clinical interventions to meaningfully address obesity and diabetes. increasingly, health and nutrition experts realise that effective treatment must include personal behaviours.7 Put simply, behaviourists believe that it is the everyday decisions - food choices, eating habits, and food-purchasing decisions - that have created the problem and will ultimately be what reverses this decline in the public's health.

This issue seems even more significant when considering college populations. The American College Health Association - National College Heath Assessment (ACHA-NCHA) reported in spring 2013 that 21.7% of college students are overweight and 12% are obese.8 The US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Healthy People 2010 report examining public health facilitators concluded that a healthy diet and physical activity levels can greatly impact a person's body mass index (BMi). This includes eating the suggested number of servings of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and fat-free or lowfat milk products daily.9 The ACHANCHA found that 60.1% of college students self-reported that they typically eat one to two servings of fruits and vegetables per day, with only 5.6% of students saying they eat five or more servings on a daily basis.8 These data indicate that the average consumption among this population is extremely low compared to the recommendations for their age group.10 The national nutrition data also report that young adults typically consume high amounts of sugar-sweetened beverages and high amounts of high-fat, high-sodium foods.7,11 These poor eating habits are found to be associated with eating more meals away from home in particular, including at fast food restaurants.7 Researchers have speculated that since this age group tends to eat most meals away from home, factors such as their level of confidence about food preparation, cooking skills, and time constraints may play an important part in influencing their ability to cook meals for themselves on a regular basis.12

These issues are highly debated throughout europe as well, particularly in the United Kingdom where unlike most US universities, most college campuses do not have 'all-you-can-eat' dining halls and require purchasing meal plans from their student populations. This leads to students, not in the meal plan, to purchase pre-prepared meals from supermarket freezers and food service take-away operations rather than preparing their food themselves. Students, who cooked meals in a social setting with other students such as roommates and friends, felt that it led to more frequent preparation of healthy, self-prepared meals.13 Furthermore, while these students reported enjoying cooking and eating with their roommates, they also highlighted the difficulty of preparing meals in general. in addition, planning meals that everyone would want to eat and arranging a time when everyone was available to cook together and eat were cited as common barriers. …

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