Healthy eating promotes the optimal growth and development of children and can help reduce the risk of developing many health-related problems such as obesity and diabetes in both children and adults. Low-income, minority children disproportionately suffer from several chronic diseases when compared to middle to upper class non-Hispanic whites. The school is an environment in which children can learn about the importance of healthy eating by observing foods served, observing role models and interacting with a curriculum that emphasizes health and good nutrition. Parent involvement has been shown to play a role in improving health habits of children. Therefore, promoting nutrition education in the school by effectively improving parent involvement among minority parents is a promising approach.
The purpose of this action research was to examine the process of developing and evaluating a culturally sensitive, family-based nutrition newsletter for Latino parents of preschool children. The study aimed to: 1) identify challenges and explore education outreach and food-related issues facing preschool Latino families and 2) develop and evaluate a culturally sensitive, family-based nutrition education newsletter that promotes family engagement and healthy eating. The four phases of this research included: 1) a formative stage; 2) a development stage;3) an evaluation stage and 4) a sustainability stage. Descriptive statistics and thematic coding was used to analyze the data. Findings from parent and staff surveys indicated that newsletters and healthy recipes were the preferred methods of receiving food and nutrition-related information and the priority health issues for participants were diabetes and obesity. Based on the preferences of parents and staff, a family based nutrition newsletter was developed that was designed to encourage parents and children to work together while engaging with newsletter material. The newsletter was evaluated by parents and staff for content, format and effectiveness.
Overall, the newsletters were well received by parents and staff. The newsletter increased interest in nutrition, but participants wanted more information and wanted more fun activities for the children. The findings of this study indicated that the tailored approach to designing newsletters is not only feasible, but acceptable regarding the audience’s specific needs and preferences in this specific context and is a viable delivery method for nutrition education and sustainable nutrition education outreach for this Center. The development of culturally sensitive nutrition education materials that meet the needs of the specific intended audiences is discussed.