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Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública

On-line version ISSN 1680-5348Print version ISSN 1020-4989


THEODORE, Florence et al. Culturally constructed meanings for consumption of sweetened beverages among schoolchildren in Mexico City. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2011, vol.30, n.4, pp.327-334. ISSN 1680-5348.

OBJECTIVE: Demonstrate the importance of the cultural factors that currently motivate Mexican children to consume sweetened beverages and examine their implications for the design of programs for the promotion of healthy lifestyles. METHODS: A qualitative phenomenological study involving nine peer interviews and four discussion groups was conducted among children aged 9 and 10 years in four public schools in southern Mexico City. The interviews employed nine photographs of beverages that are available in schools and homes. The aim was to identify the culinary rules associated with the consumption of sweetened beverages and the different views held by the children about the beverages. The complete interviews and group discussions were recorded and transcribed. Matrixes were developed for analysis of the subject categories identified during the study. The analysis was based on "continuous comparison" of the statements made by boys and girls, and among students from the four schools. RESULTS: Two main sociocultural elements, constructed in a given cultural framework, partly explain the children's current consumption patterns. The first, the nearly nonexistent concept that water is for drinking, with water consumption being limited to engagement in physical activity, in contrast to the wide range of circumstances and occasions found for the consumption of a sweetened beverage. Secondly, the identification of three principles that appear to underlie beverage consumption: the combination of salty food with sweet drinks, the important role of sweetened beverages at social events, and the close association between water consumption and the thirst induced by physical effort. CONCLUSIONS: The results show the importance of considering the role of socially significant elements in dietary practices and the need to also consider these elements when designing interventions for schoolchildren. It is also important to change the children's current views about what they drink, guiding and encouraging them to think of water as a drink to be consumed throughout the day and not only after physical activity. Finally, it is imperative in Mexico to guarantee free access to drinking water in schools and regulate food advertising that targets children.

Keywords : Obesity; overweight; child health; food preferences; drinking; Mexico.

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