Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Science in Nutrition and Food Systems (MSNFS)

Document Type

Master's Thesis


Agriculture, Food and Environment


Dietetics and Human Nutrition

First Advisor

Dr. Heather Norman-Burgdolf


High rates of obesity are seen across the country with rural areas disproportionately affected. Based on the socio-ecological model, policy, system, and environmental approaches targeted at the population level have the potential to create more sustainable health behavior change than individual level approaches. Historically, the Cooperative Extension Service (CES) has provided direct education related to healthy eating and active living in response to high obesity rates. Utilizing the resources and infrastructure of the CES, the Centers for Disease Control challenged CESs across the country to implement PSE strategies in counties with obesity rates greater than 40% through the CDC 1416 High Obesity Project. This qualitative study examined the experiences of Family and Consumer Science (FCS) Cooperative Extension Agents in conducting PSE strategies in addition to their direct education roles within their rural counties in an effort to reduce the high prevalence of obesity. Semi-structured, in-depth interviews with ten FCS Extension agents from Kentucky and Tennessee were conducted upon completion of the project and were analyzed thematically. These FCS agents encountered several barriers while implementing PSE strategies including inadequate training and poor communication regarding responsibilities and available resources. In addition, FCS agents found PSE work to be overwhelming and time consuming. Agents felt that support from project staff and their community partners allowed them to be successful. Findings from this study will be used to better prepare FCS agents in other rural counties across the country to conduct PSE work in an effort to reduce obesity prevalence in their communities.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)