Unhealthy Weight Status in Head Start Preschoolers: The Role of Hispanic Culture

M. Elizabeth Miller


Obesity rates among low-income Hispanic preschoolers are higher than those of low-income whites, highlighting the need for understanding the culturally factors that may contribute to obesity. Utilizing a community-based approach, a survey was distributed to Hispanic Head Start families; preschooler body mass index (BMI) was calculated. Two discussion groups examined caregiver perceptions about weight status and meal practices. Caregivers perceived “thinness” as a disadvantage, favored home-cooked meals, and expressed a desire for children to assimilate to mainstream foods, but these practices could contribute to unhealthy weight status. Obesity prevention within Head Start must account for caregiver perceptions of healthy weight and incongruities between cultural values, meal practices and weight guidelines. Findings provide considerations for Head Start programs when designing culturally-relevant obesity prevention programs that are responsive to Hispanic families’ cultural needs and perceptions.


obesity prevention, Head Start, preschoolers, Hispanic, culture

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This journal is a publication of the NHSA and the CEME at UNC Charlotte.