Children as health advocates: a relational consumption approach

Year: 2016

Author: Powell, Darren, Welch, Rosie, Wright, Jan, Leahy, Deana

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The purpose of this paper is to report on a preliminary analysis of data collected for the ARC funded project, 'Children as health advocates in families: assessing the consequences’. This project seeks to critically evaluate how the public health strategy of mobilizing children as health advocates in their own families impacts on children and their families. The project employs a theoretically informed qualitative approach that involves collecting interview and video data from family members in the context of the family home. A diverse range of families were recruited via a market research firm, including those which self-identify as struggling with overweight or obesity.This paper will report on the family-oriented methodology employed and data collected from a succession of interviews conducted with five families. During the first interview, the research was discussed with the families and the primary school age child in the family was asked to film (using an iPad supplied by the research team) whatever family food interactions interest them. The second family visit involved an interview with the child, drawing on the researchers' analysis of the video. In addition this interview focused on everyday activities and practices with questions such as: what do you learn about healthy food and healthy bodies at school? Do you ever tell your family about this information? What do you like about your family dinners? Do some of your family members have foods they specially like or don’t like? The third visit followed a preliminary analysis of the data from the first two visits and involved interviews with other family members together with the child.The data from the interviews and observational field notes were analysed, drawing on a relational consumption framework (Lyndsay & Maher 2013), to answer the following questions: How do children understand their roles as advocates of public health messages about obesity and healthy eating at home? What impacts do children as social agents and advocates have on family behaviors particularly in relation to family food practices? How do family contexts impact on how children make sense of obesity discourses? What is the impact when children become monitors of family health behaviours, especially in relation to anxiety and weight stigma? How does children’s advocacy play out in those families whose practices are not compatible with the health messages children carry home? The results of this analysis will be discussed in the presentation.