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Exploring Occupational and Health Behavioral Causes of Obesity in Firefighters: A Qualitative Study

The following manuscript – the result of collaboration between CSE staff and consultants with University of California Irvine – was published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine “early view” on Jan 17, 2013.

Exploring occupational and health behavioral causes of firefighter obesity: A qualitative study

 Marnie Dobson, Ph.D.1,2

BongKyoo Choi, Sc.D., MPH1

Peter L. Schnall, M.D., MPH 1,2

Erin Wigger, BA 2

Javier Garcia, MA 1

Leslie Israel, DO1

Dean Baker, MD1

  1. (1) Center for Occupational and Environmental Health, University of California Irvine, USA
  2. (2) Center for Social Epidemiology, Los Angeles, CA


Correspondence concerning this article should be directed to: Marnie Dobson or BongKyoo Choi, Center for Occupational and Environmental Health, University of California Irvine, 5201 California Avenue, Suite 100, Irvine, CA, 92617, USA, Email:mdobson@uci.edu; b.choi@uci.edu


Background: Firefighters, as an occupational group, have one of the highest prevalence rates of obesity. A qualitative study investigated occupational and health behavioral determinants of obesity among firefighters.

Methods: Four focus groups were conducted with firefighters of every rank as Phase I of the FORWARD study which was designed to assess health behavioral and occupa- tional characteristics related to obesity in firefighters.

Results: Analysis revealed five main themes of central importance to firefighters: (1) fire station eating culture; (2) night calls and sleep interruption; (3) supervisor leadership and physical fitness; (4) sedentary work; and (5) age and generational influences.

Conclusion: The results showed a strong interrelationship between occupational and health behavioral causes of obesity in firefighters. The relevance of these qualitative findings are discussed along with the implications for future obesity interventions with firefighters. Am. J. Ind. Med. ” 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

KEY WORDS: obesity; firefighters; qualitative research; occupational health; health behaviors 

The full article can be downloaded here.


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