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Dietary beliefs and behaviour of a UK Somali population

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Abstract:

Abstract Background: 

Somalis comprise one of the largest asylum seeking populations in the UK, yet very little is known about how this migration has affected traditional attitudes towards food or eating habits. The present study was commissioned to examine the health behaviours (smoking, diet and exercise) of a Somali population in London; the study focuses on the dietary beliefs and self-reported eating behaviours of these subjects. Methods: 

Because of the documented difficulty of engaging black and minority ethnic groups in research, a mixed methodology was used, involving focus groups to elicit specific dietary themes and a questionnaire survey to attempt to quantify community concordance with these themes. Eight focus groups were held in London in 2006; there were two women’s and six men’s groups, with 62 participants in total. The questionnaire was developed following analysis of the focus group discussions and opportunistically distributed via local Somali community organisations (77 respondents). Results: 

The typical diet of focus group participants largely consisted of rice, pasta and red meat. There was low consumption of fruit and vegetables reported among the focus group participants: of survey respondents 97% reported eating less than two pieces of fruit, and 92% less than two portions of vegetables, a day. Conclusions: 

Fruit and vegetable consumption was low and there was uncertainty about what constituted a healthy diet and a stated desire for education around this. Cultural factors such as the traditional Somali diet, social associations of food and lack of appropriate information are issues that need to be addressed.

Keywords: Somali; beliefs; diet; ethnic minority; food

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-277X.2008.00939.x

Affiliations: 1: Cancer Research UK Health Behaviour Research Centre, University College London, London, UK 2: Barcelona Centre for International Health Research (CRESIB), University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain

Publication date: April 1, 2009

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