Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Nutrition and Food Sciences

Document Type




Community-based, obesity prevention approaches based on the Socio-Ecological model may be effective in addressing factors within rural communities that influence resident’s ability to meet dietary and PA recommendations that will allow the potential reduction of obesity and chronic disease rates among this population. To understand how socio-ecological, community-based approaches to obesity prevention can be implemented by the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service (LCES) (the Healthy Communities program), three inter-related studies were undertaken.

The objective of the first study was to describe the nutrition and physical activity (PA) environment of rural Tensas Parish, Louisiana. The study used the Reduced-item Nutrition Environment Measures Survey for Stores and Restaurants and the Physical Activity Resources Assessment. The average nutrition environment score for stores and restaurants suggested few heathy food options were available. The mean overall PA environment score was poor at 8/75, suggesting lack of quality PA opportunities.

The second study used focus group discussions to identify perceptions of Family and Consumer Science (FCS) agents regarding the planning and implementation of community-based approaches to obesity prevention through community coalitions. Factors that influenced agents’ ability to plan and implement this approach were: knowledge of the socio-ecological model, beliefs about roles of the organization, funding, human resources, community connectedness, community buy-in, autonomy and guidance, and internal support.

The third study described the effect of a pilot Healthy Communities training program (HCTP) for FCS agents. Data were collected at three time points. Agents’ attitudes, perceived behavioral control, and behavioral intentions related to the target behaviors did not significantly change as a result of participation in the HCTP.

The nutrition and PA environment in rural areas may present challenges to those attempting to meet dietary and PA recommendations; these challenges should be addressed in obesity prevention programs. Several factors could facilitate or impede an FCS agents’ ability to plan and implement community-based approaches to obesity prevention in areas like Tensas Parish. Additional research is needed to design ideal training programs for professionals that will lead and facilitate them. Findings from this study should be beneficial to outreach agencies implementing obesity prevention outreach programs in rural communities.



Committee Chair

O'Neil, Carol E.



Available for download on Monday, October 21, 2024