Identity and Healthy Eating: A Qualitative Study of Filipino Men’s Eating Habits and Perceptions of Health and Chronic Disease in Atlanta, Georgia Open Access

Bienvenida, Alan (Spring 2019)

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Filipino Americans have been shown to face higher rates of obesity, hypertension and Type II diabetes compared to other Asian American populations. Their dietary behavior have been cited as a main contributor to the increasing prevalence of chronic disease in the community. Recently, researchers have recognized the role of cultural and healthy-eater identity in dietary behavior change. This analysis utilizes qualitative methodology to describe how identity shapes the eating habits, perceptions of health, and chronic disease among Filipino Americans living in Atlanta, Georgia.


We analyzed in-depth interview data from Filipino Americans living in Atlanta, Georgia. Thematic analysis was used to understand the experiences of seven Filipino American Adults concerning their cultural identity, eating habits, and perceptions of healthy eating and chronic disease. Participants were separated based on healthy-eater identity, based off their health perceptions and self-reported eating habits.


Numerous themes emerged in regard to the role identity played in shaping Filipino perceptions of healthy eating and chronic disease. According to participants, the traditional Filipino diet is high in fats, carbs, and salt and low in vegetable portions. Alternative recipes were offered as a method to retain cultural significance of the food while also prioritizing health. Those designated as healthy-eaters were more likely to practice healthy eating behaviors because of their more robust level of nutritional knowledge and ability to overcome certain barriers. Cultural identity seemed to dictate the type of food Filipino men would consume. Certain factors such as perceived risk and self-efficacy were expressed by participants as aspects which influence their individual motivation to practice healthy eating.  


These findings corroborate current literature on the factors which influence the dietary behaviors of Filipino Americans. Healthy-eater and cultural identity work together to influence personal, behavioral, and environmental factors influencing dietary behavior change. The analysis provided public health researchers with foundational and culturally relevant information on how to potentially tailor a dietary intervention with this community. Overall, this study takes the first steps towards addressing the growing burden of chronic disease in Filipino Americans in this region of the United States.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction. 6

Purpose Statement:. 8

Specific Aim:. 9

Significance Statement:. 9

Chapter 2: Literature Review.. 11

Chronic Disease Burden in Filipinos. 11

Identity Theory. 13

Filipino Eating Habits. 14

Healthy Immigrant Effect 15

Dietary Acculturation. 16

Perceptions of Healthy Eating and Chronic Disease. 19

Pre-Contemplation and Contemplation. 21

Preparation. 25

Action and Maintenance. 26

Chapter 3: Methods. 28

Study Design. 28

Study Population and Recruitment 30

Data Analysis. 30

Chapter 4: Results. 32

Population Characteristics. 32

Overview.. 33

Perceptions of the Filipino Diet 33

Filipino Food and Identity. 34

American Diet and Identity. 35

Health Identity. 36

Participants Placement Within Transtheoretical Model 37

Barriers to Healthy Eating. 38

Motivators to Healthy Eating. 41

Chapter 5: Discussion. 42

Impact of Identity on Health Perceptions. 42

Conceptual Framework. 43

Perceptions of Risk and Self Efficacy in Relation to Filipino and American Diets. 44

Low Level of Knowledge and Ability. 45

Environmental Influences on Dietary Behavior. 46

Strengths. 47

Limitations. 47

Conclusion. 48

Appendix A: In-Depth Interview Guide. 50


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