Caraher, M. & Drummond, C. (2007). The imperative for consultation and involvement in child nutrition research: Adding perspectives from qualitative research. In: L.V. Carter (Ed.), Child nutrition research advances. (pp. 111-130). Hauppauge NY: Nova Science Pub Inc. ISBN 1600218490
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This chapter highlights the need for an understanding of the views of children and the way they view food and nutrition knowledge and behaviour. We argue that this is necessary to help understand behaviour, to inform practice and to devise realistic research and evaluation strategies. Many existing approaches to research adopt a positivist approach and tend to exclude qualitative work because of the lack of control groups and validated measures.
We set out how, by using qualitative research techniques and examples from our own work, the views of young people can be used to inform underlying behaviour. What we know about the behaviour of a community or group of individuals is often added to by qualitative data and this is not always so in experimental studies. For example attempts to change the behaviour of young people in eating in fast food restaurants is tempered by the fact that the reasons they do this are influenced by issues other than knowledge about the food on offer; or in the case of fruit and vegetable schemes it is necessary to understand the mindset of children to consuming fruit and vegetables. These raise the classic contradiction between knowledge and behaviour and the translation of research findings into practice and shaping what works. Determining audience needs, wants and perceptions is one of the key principles of good quality public health nutrition prevention work and is in-keeping with the need to create supportive environments for health and strengthening community action for health. We set out the need for understanding the mindset of young people, along with the links between research and action. We explore the use of existing evidence and gaps in the evidence base which includes an argument for research to have utility and be linked to programme interventions; indicating a shift from traditional evidence-based practice and a plea for evaluation and research on the use of evidence in practice. Such an approach will enable health practitioners to gain a better understanding of how to implement strategies associated with childhood nutrition and healthy eating in their working environment.
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