Open Access Research

Immigrant families' perceptions on walking to school and school breakfast: a focus group study

H Mollie Greves1*, Paula Lozano1, Lenna Liu1, Katie Busby2, Jen Cole3 and Brian Johnston1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Pediatrics, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington USA

2 Seattle Public Schools, Seattle, Washington USA

3 Feet First, Seattle, Washington USA

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2007, 4:64  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-4-64

Published: 5 December 2007

Abstract

Background

Immigrant children face an increased risk of being overweight. Little is known about how immigrant families perceive school programs that may help prevent obesity, such as walking to school and school breakfast.

Methods

Six focus groups (n = 53) were conducted with immigrant parents of school-aged children, two each in three languages: Vietnamese, Spanish, and Somali. A facilitator and translator conducted the focus groups using a script and question guide. Written notes and audio transcripts were recorded in each group. Transcripts were coded for themes by two researchers and findings classified according to an ecological model.

Results

Participants in each ethnic group held positive beliefs about the benefits of walking and eating breakfast. Barriers to walking to school included fear of children's safety due to stranger abductions, distrust of neighbors, and traffic, and feasibility barriers due to distance to schools, parent work constraints, and large families with multiple children. Barriers to school breakfast participation included concerns children would not eat due to lack of appealing/appropriate foods and missing breakfast due to late bus arrival or lack of reminders. Although some parents acknowledged concerns about child and adult obesity overall, obesity concerns did not seem personally relevant.

Conclusion

Immigrant parents supported the ideals of walking to school and eating breakfast, but identified barriers to participation in school programs across domains of the ecological model, including community, institution, and built environment factors. Schools and communities serving immigrant families may need to address these barriers in order to engage parents and children in walking and breakfast programs.