2010 Grant Award - Kamisha Hamilton Escoto, Ph.D.

Work Environment and Eating Behavior among Health Service Workers

Kamisha Hamilton Escoto, Ph.D.
Department of Psychiatry, University of Minnesota

Obesity rates are high among employed adults, making the workplace a feasible target for intervention programming. Interventions addressing obesity in the workplace commonly target the physical worksite, using strategies such as increasing the availability of healthy foods, nutrition labeling, and worksite enhancement to promote physical activity. Worksite interventions rarely include components that address organizational variables, such as work structure (e.g., work hours) or occupational stressors (e.g., workload), although such variables are associated with unhealthy eating behavior and excess weight. The aim of this pilot study is to examine associations between varied measures of the work environment and food choice/eating behavior among hospital-based health service workers; an occupational group that has among the highest rates of obesity in the United States and suffers from stressful working conditions. This research will provide pilot data to develop content and inform research design for a larger grant proposal using Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) methods. The study will employ a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods, using surveys, food logs, and in-depth interviews. Data will be collected to assess both the physical and social work environment as well as psychosocial work factors (e.g., job demands, social support) and work structure (e.g., work hours). Eating and food choice behaviors that contribute most to excess weight will also be assessed. Identifying stressful characteristics of work and unhealthy food choice/eating behaviors will be critical to the design of future research studies aiming to clarify relationships between employment and obesity.