A media literacy nutrition education curriculum for head start parents about the effects of television advertising on their children’s food requests

Objective: To evaluate whether a media literacy nutrition education curriculum about the effects of television advertising on children’s food choices influenced the behavior, attitudes, and knowledge of Head Start parents.Subjects: Participants were a convenience sample of 35 parents from Head Start programs.Design: This study used a pretest-posttest, comparison condition-intervention condition design.Intervention: The 35 parents participated in both a four-week food safety curriculum (to serve as an educational placebo, comparison condition) that was followed immediately by a four-week media literacy nutrition education curriculum (intervention condition).Main outcome measures: Evaluation measures included parents’ understanding of the persuasive techniques of commercials; ability to distinguish between truths and claims in advertising; and outcome expectations, values, self-efficacy, and behaviors in relation to talking about television advertisements with children while co-viewing or in response to purchase requests in the grocery store.Statistical analyses: Paired t tests, analysis of covariance, and χ2 analyses were used.Results: The media literacy nutrition education intervention curriculum had significant effects in terms of Head Start parents’ understanding television advertising (P<.001), attitudes about television advertisements (P<.001), outcome expectations (P<.05), values (P<.01), self-efficacy (P<.001), and TV mediation behaviors (P<.001), and understanding of, and ability to read, food labels (P<.001).Conclusions/applications: Results suggest that a media literacy nutrition education curriculum can be easily conducted by dietitians. Dietitians can modify the curriculum to teach parents how to critically analyze many other forms of media (supermarket magazines, brochures, newspapers, Web sites) that sell nutrition misinformation to the public.

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