1. You and your team are heading to Jamaica this month for the JUS Media? Programme. Can you explain what you will be doing in Jamaica?
Yes, our team will travel to Jamaica to continue our NIH-funded research with our partners at the University of the West Indies. The J(amaican and) U(nited) S(tates) Media? Programme is a transdisciplinary food-focused media literacy program. We designed the program to teach Jamaican youth and families to question the food messages in media and advertising, especially U.S. cable, in order to be smarter and healthier. In the spring of this year we conducted an efficacy study of the intervention in Jamaica, finding very promising preliminary results – families who received the intervention had higher media literacy skills and fruit consumption afterwards compared to families who did not. This month our team is heading to Jamaica to convene a group of local stakeholders for a 1-day meeting with the aim to incorporate food-focused media literacy into policy and intervention efforts for school-aged children and their families to build health habits. Some of the invited stakeholders include the Jamaica Ministry of Health, The Jamaica Broadcasting Commission, and Jamaica Advertising Council, the National PTA, Grace Kennedy Foundation, and the Pan American Health Organization.
2. How with the JUS Media? Programme impact the not only, the Jamaican Culture, but also cultures around the world?
Unhealthy eating is a major risk factor for obesity and other non-communicable chronic diseases causing severe public health impacts worldwide. The JUS Media? Programme is very first intervention to address the negative impact of U.S. media on healthy habits of youth and families outside the U.S., while explicitly taking globalization and Americanization into account. Jamaica is our case study to pilot the JUS Media? Programme, but if this intervention is successful there, it holds good promise to be useful to the larger Caribbean, and other world regions facing similar globalization-related health issues. Our research shows that remote acculturation (in this case, adopting American identities and lifestyles) is a new phenomenon which increases the influence of U.S. media on youth and their unhealthy eating. Moreover, my lab, the Culture and Family Life Lab, has conducted remote acculturation studies across several countries, and we have found that remote acculturation is linked to eating behaviors in other countries such as South Africa. Therefore, we have good reason to believe that the JUS Media? Programme may have impact beyond Jamaica.
3. What us your favorite food? And can you share your favorite recipe?
As a person born and raised in Jamaica, my favorite food is Jamaican food, hands down. However, I very much enjoy Trinidadian, Ethiopian, and Thai food, and I love trying new foods wherever I travel. A favorite recipe is Jamaican “Rice and Peas”, and yes, it is made from red kidney beans, but it is still called “Rice and Peas”. Check out Dr. Ferguson’s recipe below!
4. What are your hobbies or what do you like to do in your free time?
I love traveling internationally and I love feeling the wind in my face. I try to combine the two when I can, which is why my absolute favorite experience is taking a fishing motor boat from Port Royal, Jamaica to a tiny island called Lime Cay just off the island’s shore for a few heavenly hours on the beach. Thankfully, I can also enjoy both travel and wind right here in the Mid-western U.S. by taking weekend trips to anywhere with my family and bicycle rides with my son on our tandem bike.