Q Dissertation: Richardson on exercise science students’ views of obesity

Richardson, Laura A. (2016). Weights: An exploration of university exercise science students’ views of obesity. Doctoral dissertation (Curricular and Instructional Studies), University of Akron.

Abstract: The prevalence of obesity stigmatization and discrimination is powerful, socially acceptable and widely under-explored. It has been well documented over the past two decades that people of size are targets of discrimination. With the escalating trend of obesity and vast documentation of weightism, future exercise professionals will treat and assist many patients of size. This study investigated the views of students towards obesity and weight management treatments in a first year Exercise Science course. Q methodology was chosen as a method to explore and measure students’ subjectivity. Measuring subjectivity can be difficult to quantify especially when addressing sensitive material such as negative or discriminatory perspectives. The statement of the problem consists of a two-fold agenda exploring students’ views and implementing Q methodology as a needs assessment to identify areas of obesity education that may be considered for potential modifications within Exercise Science curricula. This study aims to empirically assess differing views and report first-year university students’ perspectives of obesity, within an introductory exercise science course, as a starting point to determine if additional educational strategies should be implemented within the undergraduate exercise science curricula. Providing a robust education for preprofessional students is critical and in the process, it is a priority to help minimize possible obesity bias and discrimination. Understanding and evaluating students’ views towards course content material promptly during the undergraduate studies may significantly facilitate threading awareness and exposure of weightism early and continuously throughout the undergraduate program. It is essential for students (preprofessional) to be educated regarding extensive issues of obesity care while being sensitive to treatment options. Identifying discriminatory or unconscious bias among students is the first step. Subsequently, developing mechanisms and strategies for educators to increase bias awareness for obesity acceptance must follow.

The focus on students’ subjective perspectives related to obesity has received unduly scarce attention in previous studies. This lack of attention may be partially caused by difficulties in measuring subjectivity. This current study addressed the challenge by developing an analytical approach using a robust concourse that increased the precision of exploring views. This study revealed first-year university students’ views of obesity and demonstrated how Q methodology can be used as a needs assessment tool in Exercise Science undergraduate program.

Laura A Richardson <laura2> is currently visiting instructor of Sports Science and Wellness Education at the University of Akron. An article related to her dissertation appears in Advances in Physiology Education, 2015, 39(2), 43-48, available at http://advan.physiology.org/content/39/2/43.

Lewin on stakeholder perspectives concerning prevention of childhood obesity

Alexandra C. Lewin (2009, January). Whose responsibility? The role of the federal government in preventing childhood obesity: Perspectives of organizations, congressional staffers, and parents. Doctoral dissertation, Cornell University.

Abstract: This dissertation examined three stakeholder groups and their perspectives about the role of the federal government in preventing childhood obesity. The three stakeholder groups included organizations involved in childhood obesity, U.S. Congressional staffers working on health and agriculture policy, and low-income African-American parents of elementary school children in Washington, DC. Frequently at the core of the debate over the role of the federal government is the notion of personal responsibility � whether preventing childhood obesity is limited to individual decisions, whether there might be larger systemic issues that shape individual behavior, and when it may be the government�s responsibility to protect our children�s public health. The research completed to date has focused more on either the media�s use of the personal responsibility frame and public opinion studies that have gathered only a general understanding of individual support for/against pre-selected obesity frames and policies. The underlying perspectives shaping opinions, and the values and subjectivity embedded within these debates and policy options, have been sparsely documented. Rather than view nutrition as objective, where policy outcomes are the result of pure scientific debate, this research considers the policy process itself and within it the nuanced opinions, strategies employed, and values invoked by these three sectors. A discourse analysis to define and examine interpretive packages was completed to examine organizations� press release language in response to one or more of the four obesity-related Institute of Medicine reports. A Q study, using statements largely from the aforementioned press releases, and follow-up interviews, were completed with individual Congressional staffers. A Q study was also completed with each parent, and follow-up focus groups were completed with groups of parents. Two interpretive packages, with two sub-emphases, emerged from the organization study. The Multiple Responsibility package contained both Political Responsibility and Everyone�s Responsibility sub-emphases. The Self-Reliance package contained both Self-Regulation and Consumer Sovereignty sub-emphases. The Congressional staffer Q study revealed three perspectives: Government Action Advocates, Select Government Action Advocates, and Personal Responsibility Advocates. The Parent Q study also revealed three perspectives: Parents + Specific Government, Parents + General Government, and Government + Other.

Alexandra Lewin received her undergraduate degree from Cornell University in 2004 and a Masters in Public Administration from the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs in 2005. Her thesis focused on the impact of different sugar trade policies on least-developed countries. As part of her MPA, she attended Cornell-in-Washington and worked as an Agriculture Fellow in the U.S. Senate. She is currently a Nutrition Policy Fellow at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.