Weighing the Options: Health Choices of Low-income Puerto Rican Mothers in Pennsylvania

Weighing the Options: Health Choices of Low-income Puerto Rican Mothers in Pennsylvania

Author: 
Cynthia D. Knittle
Program of study: 
D.H.A.
Abstract: 
Food and physical activity-related decisions are main factors in maintaining health. Most studies about Hispanic cultural groups have focused on Mexican Americans because they represent the largest Hispanic culture in the United States. However, findings regarding Mexican Americans may not accurately represent other Hispanic subgroups. The purpose of the qualitative case study was to explore the influences on health choices related to nutrition and physical activity made by 16 low-income Puerto Rican-born mothers living in central Pennsylvania. Manual open coding was used to analyze one-toone open-ended interviews. Descriptive statistics were used to analyze scores from a bicultural assessment, the Puerto Rican Biculturality Scale. Three major themes were identified: (a) "My eyes opened to a healthier life", (b) “Creating meals is more than just cooking”, and (c) “I know I’m supposed to…It’s just practicing is something else.” Recommendations to health care practitioners included implementing culturally sensitive interventions about avoiding health conditions related to poor nutrition and low physical activity; using tools to assess cultural orientation, and providing education on time management for meal planning and physical activity. Recommendations to Hispanic leaders included involving the Puerto Rican community in developing nutrition and physical activity lifestyle interventions. Recommendations to civic policy makers included becoming involved in collaborative healthy initiatives; limiting neighborhood concentrations of fast food restaurants; advocating policies to increase healthy choices in fast food restaurants; maintaining and keeping sidewalks free of snow and ice in the winter; and increasing city spending to design structures for physical activity use during inclement weather
Dedication: 
I dedicate this research study to those individuals who influenced my passion for healthy nutrition and physical activity. My parents, William and Dorothy Schmidle, taught me the benefits of whole foods nutrition and a physically active life. Later, teachers, friends, students, and customers shared whole foods cooking and physical activity adventures with me in several venues. Most importantly, my husband Daniel, and sons Daniel, Kristofer, and Alexander supported my efforts to create wholesome meals and stay physically active. May new ideas continue to come forth to inspire us to make health choices for our highest well being!
Acknowledgements: 
My very great appreciation goes to my Chair, Dr. Susan A. Orshan, for her valuable and constructive suggestions throughout the research process. Her willingness to give her time so generously inside and outside of class was very much appreciated. I offer my special thanks to committee members, Drs. Jeanne Bachand and Stephanie Vecchiarelli for their useful critiques of this research work. I thank the following individuals from the Hispanic centers for access to participants: José Colón, Keila Sánchez-Colón , and Sandra Valdez. Furthermore, I sincerely thank the participants for volunteering their time and sharing their personal experiences with me. Numerous friends and colleagues deserve thanks: my DHA cohort: Joy, Patricia, Beverly, Saida, and Donna; my residency cohort: George, Stacy, Michele, Darnell, Terri, Donna, and many, many more; and other helpful individuals along the way: Aida, Cary, Christian, Maria, Maribel, and David. Finally, I thank my family: my husband Daniel for his patience and encouragement; my son Kristofer who gave back the advice I gave when he was in college; and my son Alexander who always listened enthusiastically when I talked about my academic milestones.