Public Health Nutrition

Research Paper

A social marketing approach to improving the nutrition of low-income women and children: an initial focus group study

Sarah E Hampsona1a2 c1, Julia Martina1, Jenel Jorgensena1 and Mary Barkera3

a1 Oregon Research Institute, 1715 Franklin Boulevard, Eugene, OR 97403, USA

a2 Department of Psychology, University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, GU2 7XH, UK

a3 Food Choice Group, University of Southampton, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton SO16 6YD, UK


Objective To identify approaches for interventions to improve the nutrition of low-income women and children.

Design Seven focus groups were conducted with low-income women caring for young children in their households. They discussed shopping, eating at home, eating out and healthy eating. The discussions were recorded and subjected to qualitative thematic analysis.

Setting A semi-rural community in Oregon, USA.

Subjects There were seventy-four women (74 % White), most of whom were 18–29 years old.

Results Four broad themes were identified, i.e. cost-consciousness, convenience, social influences and health issues.

Conclusions The target population would benefit from improved understanding of what constitutes a balanced diet, with a greater emphasis on a more central role for fruit and vegetables. To persuade this population to change their eating habits, it will be necessary to convince them that healthful food can be low-cost, convenient and palatable for children. Comparing findings from the present study with a similar one in the UK suggests that the US women faced many of the same barriers to healthy eating but displayed less helplessness.

(Received March 17 2008)

(Accepted November 25 2008)


c1 Corresponding author: Email