BACKGROUND: In the emerging debate around obesity intervention in schools, recent calls have been made for researchers to include local community opinions in the design of interventions. Community-based participatory research (CBPR) is an effective approach for forming community partnerships and integrating local opinions. We used CBPR principles to conduct formative research in identifying acceptable and potentially sustainable obesity intervention strategies in 8 New Mexico school communities.
METHODS: We collected formative data from 8 high schools on areas of community interest for school health improvement through collaboration with local School Health Advisory Councils (SHACs) and interviews with students and parents. A survey based on formative results was created to assess acceptability of specific intervention strategies and was provided to SHACs. Quantitative data were analyzed using descriptive statistics while qualitative data were evaluated using an iterative analytic process for thematic identification.
RESULTS: Key themes identified through the formative process included lack of healthy food options, infrequent curricular/extracurricular physical activity opportunities, and inadequate exposure to health/nutritional information. Key strategies identified as most acceptable by SHAC members included healthier food options and preparation, a healthy foods marketing campaign, yearly taste tests, an after-school noncompetitive physical activity program, and community linkages to physical activity opportunities.
CONCLUSION: An adaptive CBPR approach for formative assessment can be used to identify obesity intervention strategies that address community school health concerns. Eight high school SHACs identified 6 school-based strategies to address parental and student concerns related to obesity.