Author ORCID Identifier

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Nao Hagiwara, PhD

Second Advisor

Melanie K. Bean, PhD

Third Advisor

Shawn C.T. Jones, PhD


Obesity is a national epidemic in the US, disproportionately affecting African Americans, such that the obesity prevalence in African Americans (49.6%) surpassed the national prevalence (42.4%) in 2018. Those same disparities exist at the collegiate level, such that 27.4% of a sample of African Americans college students had obesity, surpassing the national prevalence of obesity (12.1%) in 2018. Diet, an important driver of obesity, is influenced by several psychological, social, and environmental factors. However, cultural factors influencing diet are understudied among African American college students. The overarching goal of the current study was to identify culturally-relevant factors that promote healthy eating among African American college students. Through a convergent mixed methods design, the results indicated that negative attitudes and low priority were significant barriers to healthy eating. Perceived importance predicted healthy eating engagement over and above barriers to engagement. Qualitative data demonstrated that culture serves as a socialization agent, shaping modeling, exposure, and perceptions of healthy eating behaviors. These culturally-relevant beliefs persist into emerging adulthood. These results serve as formative work to uncovering the specific role of culture in healthy eating behaviors among African American college students.


© Danyel Smith

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