Perspectives of Caregivers on the Effects of Migration on the Nutrition, Health and Physical Activity of their Young Children: A Qualitative Study with Immigrant and Refugee Families

  • Elizabeth Dawson-HahnEmail author
  • Lorren Koceja
  • Elizabeth Stein
  • Beth Farmer
  • H. Mollie Grow
  • Brian E. Saelens
  • Jason Mendoza
  • Suzinne Pak-Gorstein
Original Paper


To explore perspectives on nutrition, health and physical activity among immigrant parents with young children before and after migration. We conducted focus groups in five languages (Arabic, Somali, Dari, Burmese and Nepali), then conducted a phenomenological analysis of the transcripts. Fifty caregivers participated; 42% spent time in a refugee camp. Within the domain Change in Environment, four themes emerged: (1) food access; (2) family experiences with weight and growth; (3) differences in physical activity and perceptions of safety; and (4) health care experience. Within the domain of Parenting Behaviors and Experiences, two themes emerged: (1) Sociocultural differences in early feeding behaviors and (2) concern about feeding behaviors. To support health outcomes for refugee and immigrant families with young children, key focus areas for programming would include access to fresh foods, safe places for physical activity, and feeding practices following a family history of food scarcity.


Refugees Immigrants Children Feeding Nutrition 



We appreciate all of Zac Eskenazi’s work in facilitating the logistics of the First Foods program at Refugees Northwest, as well as the interpreters that supported each focus group. Thank you to Andrea Hoopes, MD, MPH for her feedback on early stages of this manuscript. Dr. Dawson-Hahn’s salary was funded by the Ruth L. Kirchstein National Research Service Award (T32HP10002), and the focus groups were funded by a grant from the Seattle Children’s Center for Diversity and Health Equity, and a Community Solutions Grant from United Way (PI: Farmer).


Dr. Dawson-Hahn’s time and effort was funded by the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (T32HP10002) and the Seattle Children’s Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development Mentored Scholars Award. Dr. Dawson-Hahn received grant funding for this project from the Seattle Children’s Hospital Center for Diversity and Health Equity Small Grant Funding. Ms. Farmer received grant funding for this project from Washington-Rotary International and a United Way Community Solutions Grant.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

There are no conflicts of interest to report.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PediatricsUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  2. 2.Seattle Children’s Research InstituteCenter for Child Health, Behavior and DevelopmentSeattleUSA
  3. 3.Harborview Medical CenterSeattleUSA
  4. 4.Refugees Northwest, Lutheran Community Services NorthwestSeatacUSA
  5. 5.Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral SciencesUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  6. 6.Cancer Prevention ProgramFred Hutch/UW Cancer ConsortiumSeattleUSA
  7. 7.Department of Global HealthUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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