Exploring facilitating factors and barriers to participation in a community-based physical activity and nutrition program among parents in Austin, Texas

Allison Margaret Lodine, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Background: MEND (Mind, Exercise, Nutrition, Do It!) is a family-based, multicomponent program that aims to promote health, fitness, and self-esteem among overweight children ages 7-13 (MEND Foundation). Participation in MEND is free to participants due to grant funding and partnerships with relevant health promoting organizations. The program has been shown to successfully reduce or maintain BMI for 80% of participants, yet many eligible participants in Austin, Texas are not showing up for the session after initial recruitment. Objectives: The primary goal of this study is to examine facilitating factors and barriers to parent participation in the MEND physical activity program, specifically considering parental or caregiver perceptions and expectations of physical activity, using a qualitative approach. Methods/Design: Low-income families in Austin, Texas that were enrolled in the MEND Program, but dropped out or did not attend classes, were recruited for the study. Six focus groups were conducted. Focus group audiotapes were transcribed and thematically analyzed to identify recurrent patterns related to perceptions of and barriers to participation. Results: Participants included 18 unique families with a total of 20 individual parents. Time, transportation, lack of clear information, and lack of structural support for childcare or whole family involvement were the primary barriers to participation in the MEND program. Primary barriers to physical activity were lack of time, affordability of programs or gyms, limited knowledge of what to do, and self-confidence to be physically active. Participants primarily sought information about physical activity from close family members and friends or used their own common sense rather than turning to health professionals. Other noteworthy findings were: 1) participants distinguished between exercise and physical activity as distinct behaviors, and 2) several participants stated that children are primarily responsible for their own physical activity. Conclusions: Results indicated that obesity prevention programs should emphasize promotion of parental health and empowering of parents to engage their children in physical activity, since many parents thought that children were responsible for their own activity levels. In addition, obesity prevention programs should include relevant role models, incentives, and functional support to address barriers to program participation, such as transportation and time. Further research, both qualitative and quantitative, is needed to determine if the results of this small study are consistent in different settings.

Subject Area

Health education

Recommended Citation

Lodine, Allison Margaret, "Exploring facilitating factors and barriers to participation in a community-based physical activity and nutrition program among parents in Austin, Texas" (2015). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1597541.