Perceptions of eating practices and physical activity among Malaysian adolescents in secondary schools: A qualitative study with multi-stakeholders

Shooka Mohammadi, Tin Tin Su, Angeliki Papadaki, Muhammad Yazid Jalaludin, Maznah Dahlui, Mohd Nahar Azmi Mohamed, Russell Jago, Zoi Toumpakari, Laura Johnson, Hazreen Abdul Majid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


Objective: To conduct formative research using qualitative methods among stakeholders of secondary schools to explore their perceptions, barriers, and facilitators related to healthy eating and physical activity among Malaysian adolescents.
Design: A qualitative study involving eight focus groups and 12 in-depth interviews. Focus groups and interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim. An inductive thematic analysis approach was used to analyse the data.
Setting: Four secondary schools in Perak and Selangor states (two urban and two rural schools) in Malaysia.
Participants: Focus groups were conducted with 76 adolescents aged 13–14 years and in-depth interviews were conducted with four headmasters, four physical activity education (PE) teachers and four food canteen operators.
Results: Stakeholders thought that adolescents’ misperceptions, limited availability of healthy options, unhealthy food preferences and affordability were important challenges preventing healthy eating at school. Low-quality PE classes, limited adolescent participation and teachers’ commitment during lessons were perceived as barriers to adolescents being active at school. Affordability was the main challenge for adolescents from rural schools. Stakeholders perceived that a future school-based intervention should improve the availability and subsidies for healthy foods, provide health education/training for both adolescents and PE teachers, enhance active adolescent participation in PE and develop social support mechanisms to facilitate engagement with physical activity
Conclusions: These findings provide important insights into developing school-based lifestyle interventions to improve healthy eating and strengthening physical activity of Malaysian adolescents.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPublic Health Nutrition
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 11 Jun 2020

Structured keywords

  • SPS Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences


  • Diet
  • physical activity
  • School based
  • Adolescents
  • Malaysia

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