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Food beliefs and practices in urban poor communities in Accra: implications for health interventions

Boatemaa, S; Badasu, DM; de-Graft Aikins, A; (2018) Food beliefs and practices in urban poor communities in Accra: implications for health interventions. BMC Public Health , 18 , Article 434. 10.1186/s12889-018-5336-6. Green open access

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Abstract

Background: Poor communities in low and middle income countries are reported to experience a higher burden of chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and nutrition-related NCDs. Interventions that build on lay perspectives of risk are recommended. The objective of this study was to examine lay understanding of healthy and unhealthy food practices, factors that influence food choices and the implications for developing population health interventions in three urban poor communities in Accra, Ghana. Methods: Thirty lay adults were recruited and interviewed in two poor urban communities in Accra. The interviews were audio-taped, transcribed and analysed thematically. The analysis was guided by the socio-ecological model which focuses on the intrapersonal, interpersonal, community, structural and policy levels of social organisation. Results: Food was perceived as an edible natural resource, and healthy in its raw state. A food item retained its natural, healthy properties or became unhealthy depending on how it was prepared (e.g. frying vs boiling) and consumed (e.g. early or late in the day). These food beliefs reflected broader social food norms in the community and incorporated ideas aligned with standard expert dietary guidelines. Healthy cooking was perceived as the ability to select good ingredients, use appropriate cooking methods, and maintain food hygiene. Healthy eating was defined in three ways: 1) eating the right meals; 2) eating the right quantity; and 3) eating at the right time. Factors that influenced food choice included finances, physical and psychological state, significant others and community resources. Conclusions: The findings suggest that beliefs about healthy and unhealthy food practices are rooted in multi-level factors, including individual experience, family dynamics and community factors. The factors influencing food choices are also multilevel. The implications of the findings for the design and content of dietary and health interventions are discussed.

Type: Article
Title: Food beliefs and practices in urban poor communities in Accra: implications for health interventions
Location: England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1186/s12889-018-5336-6
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-018-5336-6
Language: English
Additional information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
Keywords: Food beliefs, Healthy eating, Unhealthy eating, Socio-ecological model, Ghana
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > SHS Faculty Office
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > SHS Faculty Office > UCL Institute for Advanced Studies
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10077869
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