‘I should be disease free, healthy and be happy in whatever I do’: a cross-country analysis of drivers of adolescent diet and physical activity in different low- and middle-income contexts
Weller S., Hardy-Johnson P., Strommer S., Fall C., Banavali U., Chopra H., Janha RE., Joseph S., Reddy KJ., Mengistie MA., Wrottesley SV., Kouakou E., Barker M.
AbstractObjective:To explore perceptions of how context shapes adolescent diet and physical activity in eight low- and middle-income (LMIC) sites at different stages of societal and economic transition.Design:Novel qualitative secondary analysis of eight data sets generated as part of the international Transforming Adolescent Lives through Nutrition (TALENT) collaboration.Setting:Diverse sites in India and Sub-Saharan Africa.Participants:Fifty-two focus group discussions with 491 participants (303 adolescents aged 10–17 years; 188 caregivers).Results:Analysis of pooled qualitative data identified three themes: (1) transitions in generational nutrition education and knowledge; (2) transition in caregiver–adolescent power balance and (3) the implications of societal and economic transition for diet and physical activity. Adolescents in urban and peri-urban areas could readily access ‘junk’ food. Diets in rural settings were determined by tradition, seasonality and affordability. Physical activity was inhibited by site-specific factors including lack of space and crime in urban settings, and the prioritisation of academic performance. Gender influenced physical activity across all sites, with girls afforded fewer opportunities.Conclusions:Interventions to improve adolescent diet and physical activity in LMIC need to be complex, context-specific and responsive to transitions at the individual, economic and societal levels. Moreover, solutions need to acknowledge gender inequalities in different contexts, as well as structural and cultural influences on diet and physical activity in resource-limited settings. Programmes need to be effective in engaging and reconciling adolescents’ and caregivers’ perspectives. Consequently, there is a need for action at both the community-household level and also through policy.