Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Contextualizing Obesity among Latino Farmworkers: A Critical Analysis of Structural and Cultural Processes Affecting Farmworker Health and Nutrition in Central Florida
by Johnson, Melissa H., M.A., University of South Florida, 2010, 144; 1483530
Abstract (Summary)

Migrant and seasonal farmworkers play a critical role in the U.S. economy, producing food for the American public, while their suffering is often rendered invisible by their existence on the margins of society. The low wages associated with farm labor combined with the largely undocumented status of this population severely limits access to food, housing, and health care, resulting in poor health outcomes. Through the use of a critical anthropological approach, this research examines the social, cultural, political, and economic context of obesity among Latino migrant and seasonal farmworkers in Central Florida. Ethnographic research methods were used to explore perceptions about the relationships between the body, food, and health among Latino farmworkers, contextualizing these cultural beliefs within the broader, macro-level factors affecting health, including immigration, agricultural, and economic policies. Furthermore, this study compares the perceptions of farmworkers with those of healthcare workers that serve this community, examining the implications that conceptions of culture and "cultural competency" have for developing health interventions.

The findings of this research reveal that, in contrast to the beliefs of health providers, farmworkers do understand the relationship between health and body size, and do not show preferences for overweight or obese figures. Conceptions of food, on the other hand, differ somewhat from those promoted by U.S. nutritional guidelines, and farmworker interviews indicate an interest for more nutritional information. This suggests a need to develop nutritional information that is culturally relevant for Latino farmworkers. Additionally, however, economic constraints significantly limit farmworkers' abilities to purchase sufficient and nutritious foods. The combination of economic constraints and varying nutritional knowledge has significant health implications for farmworkers, most notably in terms of the connection to diet-related health problems such as obesity. The implications of these findings indicate that nutritional interventions focused solely on education without addressing the economic and political processes that constrain farmworkers' agency will have little overall effect on the health of this population. This research, therefore, emphasizes the importance of using a holistic approach to understand the complexity of health and nutritional issues among farmworkers.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Castaneda, Heide
Commitee: Baer, Roberta, Bryant, Carol
School: University of South Florida
Department: Anthropology
School Location: United States -- Florida
Source: MAI 49/03M, Masters Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Cultural anthropology, Public health
Keywords: Body image, Cultural perceptions, Food, Poverty, Structural constraints
Publication Number: 1483530
ISBN: 9781124376837
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