A healthy lifestyle : the attitudes and experiences of African-Caribbean adolescents and their families in West Yorkshire
This study explores the attitudes and experiences of African-Caribbean adolescents and their families towards a healthy lifestyle. Findings from the study highlighted a number of contrasting multidimensional factors that either facilitated or limited the choices for a healthy lifestyle. This is particularly significant since research on African-Caribbean families has usually failed to take into account the central aspects of their life experiences. The study took an ethnographic perspective, which provided the opportunity of making African-Caribbean lives visible and placing them as participants, rather than subjects or victims. This was central for acknowledging and understanding their attitudes and experiences towards a healthy lifestyle. The main finding was that for African-Caribbean families everyday life is inseparable from a healthy lifestyle. In the management of everyday life, adolescents and their families interacted with a range of resources, which were socially, economically, historically and culturally structured. The resources became the medium through which attitudes and experiences for a healthy lifestyle were negotiated, articulated and practised. Some of these resources, such as spirituality, strength of African-Caribbean identity, familylkin systems, values and beliefs were described as facilitating the individuals' experiences of a healthy lifestyle. In this context, poor educational outcomes, socio-economic disadvantages, racism and discrimination, failure to recognise and appreciate the individual's identity, values and beliefs constrained and limited the options to practise a healthy lifestyle. The analysis of these factors allowed a conceptualisation of the reality of African-Caribbean families' way of life. The study concludes by suggesting that the intricate connection between healthy lifestyles and the prevailing African-Caribbean life situation must be recognised. For these families, social and economic disadvantages including the effects of racism, discrimination and its effects of social exclusion were real and relevant. These were important areas for an understanding and explanation of how contemporary African-Caribbean families' lives are constructed and how this affects their participation in a healthy lifestyle. Since the issues were multidimensional, individualised and collective, the strategies facilitating African-Caribbeans to live a healthy lifestyle must reflect the complexity of their life experiences. In addition, future research and actions on African-Caribbeans' needs should take cognisance of the multidimensional and contextual nature of their history and life experiences.