Qualitative insight into primary school children's nutrition literacy

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11 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Health literacy is a key international public health goal. Conceptualising health literacy as an asset highlights the importance of fostering a health literate youth for the benefit of future generations, yet research has predominantly focused on examining adults’ and older adolescents’ health literacy. This presents a gap for child-centred studies with younger populations. The purpose of this paper is to report the findings from a qualitative study that explored health literacy, in a nutrition context (i.e. nutrition literacy), from primary school children’s perspectives. Design/methodology/approach: The study examined children’s experiences in accessing, understanding and interacting with nutrition information. In doing so, the research employed a socio-ecological framework to understand facilitators and barriers that can influence children’s nutrition literacy. Preadolescent boys and girls aged 11–12 years were invited to take part in the study. At the time of recruitment, students were attending one of three state government schools in a socioeconomically disadvantaged region of metropolitan South Australia. A series of focus groups and individual semi-structured interviews were conducted with 38 participants. Interview data were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed using thematic techniques. Findings: Children demonstrated that they accessed and interacted with a variety of sources of nutrition information. Nutrition understandings were derived from the home, school and media environments. Parents and teachers were cited as key influences on children’s interactions with nutrition information and children particularly emphasised the trust placed in their teachers as health “experts.” While the home and school environments emerged as potential settings to develop children’s nutrition literacy skills, the children’s narratives also alluded to potential barriers surrounding nutrition literacy. Originality/value: This study provides further insight into children’s nutrition literacy. While functional nutrition literacy remains a fundamental starting point, children are interested in opportunities to develop more interactive skills, such as those related to cooking. Opportunities also exist to foster more critical competencies. This research thereby highlights the importance of more integrated strategies to promote nutrition literacy among this population group across multiple settings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)98-114
Number of pages17
JournalHealth Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 7 May 2019


  • health education
  • nutrition
  • Qualitative methods
  • children
  • food
  • school health promotion
  • School health promotion
  • Nutrition
  • Children
  • Health education
  • Food


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