Food Literacy: What does Food Literacy mean for Samoan families?
Wong Soon, Hoy Neng
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The alarming incidence of obesity rates has reached epidemic proportions, turning into a major health challenge worldwide, and New Zealand is no exception. Despite healthcare providers’ best efforts, obesity still affects all people of all ages and ethnicities. Pasefika peoples, including Samoans, reportedly have the highest rates of obesity and face more health disparities, compared to their European counterparts. The increasing burden of health issues such as poor nutrition, sedentary lifestyles and obesity have very much impacted on the increase of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers (Rush, Freitas, & Plank, 2009). The incidence of Type 2 Diabetes (T2DM) has more than doubled in New Zealand and Pasefika populace have one of the highest rates. There has been an increasing number of health initiatives focusing on ‘healthy eating’ to counter the increasing incidence of obesity. People in the most deprived socioeconomic segment of society have diets high in sugar, salt and saturated fats, which cost less and are easy to access. The majority of Pasefika populations reside in poor areas (Ministry of Health [MOH], 2014a). Past studies found the poor socioeconomic status of populations correlated with health disparities. Pasefika peoples, including Samoans are included in these statistics. In Pasefika cultures, including Samoan, food is not just about physical nourishment but plays a major role in the cultural identity and interconnectedness of people in the community. If food and lifestyle choices are implicated in the high rate of NCDs affecting Pasefika peoples, there is a need to understand their beliefs with regard to food. This study used a qualitative Delphi-Talanoa design involving two rounds of interviews, to explore the question “what does food literacy mean for families; three generations of Samoan women in five families?” Talanoa was used to capture the views of three generations (grandmother, daughter and granddaughter) of Samoan women from five South Auckland families, on their understanding of food literacy. Participants were recruited using the snowball method. The talanoa sessions were held in English and Samoan; recordings were transcribed and back-translated to English. The NVivo11 software system was used for thematic analysis. Findings identified the significant role of the ‘mother’ in the families and her influence on the family meals. Granddaughters had some influence on family meals, but not as much as the grandmothers. The latters influenced the type of meals prepared by the daughters, by stating their preference for certain foods. Health professionals such as midwives and family doctors played a major role in improving the participants’ knowledge of food and related information. Moreover, community health programmes also enabled participants to make more informed decisions on their food choices and lifestyle practices. Participants stated that they would prefer Samoan to be used during consultations and have more of health professionals to speak Samoan. They felt this would also be an advantage to help improve Samoan people’s understanding of food and related matters. The findings confirmed the importance of social settings that Samoans affiliate with, such as sports club, school alumni and village subcommittees. These social networks should be considered for future interventions. It is hoped that the conclusions from this study add to the body of knowledge and form the basis for future planning for health interventions for our Pasefika and Samoan populations.