Young People and Physical Activity - Consultancy Report. Deliverable 1 Preliminary Literature Review
Hughes, CJ, Young People and Physical Activity - Consultancy Report. Deliverable 1 Preliminary Literature Review, Link Youth Health Service and the DHHS Tasmania (Population Health), 1 (2011) [Consultants Report]
The dramatic growth in childhood obesity a major public health issue facing public health agencies
worldwide. (Delormier et al., 2009 p. 185). A complex combination of changes has contributed to
this shift. The so]called eobesity crisisf has been variously linked to the trend away from family meals,
towards egrazingf and eating alone, changes in parental employment , availability and marketing of
foods and drinks, gobesogenic environmentsh and general societal trends that encourage overeating
and little physical activity (Delormier et al., 2009 p. 215, Salvy et al., 2008a p. 195). However, as
Delormier and colleagues note, despite widespread social changes being implicated in the rise of
obesity, efforts to reverse the trend have predominantly focused on the behaviour of individuals
(2009 p. 215). They note that an important limitation of studying eating strictly as an individual
behaviour, is that it exaggerates
gthe extent to which rational choice drives what people choose to eat, and
underestimates the extent to which eating is embedded in the flow of day]to]day life.
Peoplefs eating patterns form in relation to other people, alongside everyday activities
that take place in family groups, work and school. Eating does involve isolated choice,
but it is choice conditioned by the context in which it occursh (Delormier et al., 2009 p.
Socio]environmental approaches, by contrast, emphasise the importance of understanding gthe
social, built, and natural environments in which people choose food and engage in physical activityh
(Maley et al., 2010 p. 185). Given that most adolescents spend a large proportion of their time at
school, it is important to take account of the ways in which the school physical and social
environments impact upon studentsf echoicesf. For instance, a recent American study noted that
gMost secondary schools (78%) have student]accessible vending machinesc and 34% of high schools
permit students to use vending machines at any timeh (Patrick and Nicklas, 2005 p. 86). It seems
likely that the situation in Australia is similar.
This project is innovative due to its focus on two interrelated issues a) enormative environmentsf
within schools, and b) the ways in which normative perceptions function as a form of epeer
influencef. With respect to the first issue, this document outlines a number of relevant studies
including one on weight]related teasing (which is associated with body dissatisfaction and eating
disorders) in the school setting (Haines et al., 2006), and another which investigates the eesocial
contagionff of dieting and unhealthy weight control behaviours (use of laxatives, self]induced
vomiting, fasting) among female school students (Eisenberg et al., 2005 p. 1170).
With respect to the second issue, research on the impact of peer influences has been heralded as
ehaving important implications for obesity treatment and prevention. Cross]sectional studies have
also shown that youth physical activity is related to social support and modelling by peers (Hardman
2010: 4). Peers and friends may act as a guide regarding what, and how much, it is appropriate for
adolescents to eat (Salvy et al., 2008a p. 185) This and other issues will now be discussed with
reference to the literature.