Research finds promising approaches to prevent Latino childhood obesity

February 15, 2013

Guided grocery store trips, menu labeling at restaurants, community gardens, and video-game-based exercise programs are among several promising, culturally appropriate ways to prevent obesity among Latino children, according to a new collection of studies from Salud America! The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Research Network to Prevent Obesity Among Latino Children published in a supplement to the March issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Salud America! is a national network of researchers, advocates, and policymakers established in 2007 that seeks environmental and policy solutions to Latino , an American epidemic.

The supplement focuses on Salud America! achievements over the past five years, including 19 papers of groundbreaking research. It also features three commentaries authored by a range of political and medical leaders—such as San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro and Harvey V. Fineberg, President of the Institute of Medicine.

Each paper considers the context of Latino culture, health conditions, and/or policies in places where and families live, work, learn, play, and pray.

"This supplement is the culmination of several years of diligence, passion, and hard work in identifying and examining the most promising policy-relevant strategies to reduce and prevent obesity among Latino children," say supplement editors Amelie G. Ramirez, DrPH, MPH, director of Salud America! and the Institute for Health Promotion Research at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, and Guadalupe X. Ayala, PhD, MPH, of the Division of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences in the Graduate School of Public Health at San Diego State University. "In addition to fueling new research findings, Salud America! helped to increase the skills and experience of researchers working in the field, and further expand the national Salud America! research network. The ranks of those working to reverse the country's are getting stronger each day."

In the United States, Latinos are currently the most populous and fastest-growing ethnic minority. About 44 percent of Latino boys and 38 percent of Latino girls are either overweight or obese, compared with an average rate of 31 percent. Children who are overweight or obese are more likely to remain so later in life, which can put them at greater risk for long-term health conditions, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer.

The supplement presents Salud America! studies that sought effective approaches for preventing and controlling obesity among Latino children. The studies represent work conducted in eleven states and a variety of participants, research methodologies, and outcomes.

Within the Latino community, studies concluded that:

  • Owners of small, independent restaurants can improve access to healthy menu options and continue to publish calorie information on their menus
  • Tending community gardens or attending nutrition and cooking workshops improved or maintained children's body mass indices and increased the presence of fruits and vegetables in the home
  • Capitalizing on the interconnectedness of one's faith and health, religious communities can serve as conduits for obesity prevention programs that offer faith-oriented cooking classes, health education, and physical activity opportunities
  • A child's participation in an afterschool fitness program can increase the likelihood of subsequent fitness over a two-year period
  • Barriers related to transportation, language, and school communication can negatively affect families' physical activity
  • Policy development and environmental change are possible to stimulate physical activity, based on a study administered within the United States – Mexico border colonias

Within schools, a team of investigators concluded that using active video games can increase cardiorespiratory endurance and math scores over time among Latino students.

Within the Latino family, studies focused on the effectiveness of a variety of interventions:

  • An intervention involving nutrition education about food selection and a guided trip to the grocery store resulted in a decrease in the total number of calories per dollar spent, challenging the common perception that purchasing healthy foods costs more money
  • A summertime intervention of parental training and guidance to support healthy lifestyle choices among mothers, combined with a program of exercise, nutrition education, and behavioral counseling for their daughters, produced a significant reduction in the percentage of body fat and waist circumference for the girls
  • Among migrant workers, parents were not as concerned about overweight children as they were obese children, indicating the need for more community education and prevention programs

In his commentary, George R. Flores, MD, MPH, asserts, "Research represented in the Salud America! supplement is noteworthy because it represents good science and new information about a population and problem that deserve much greater attention, was produced with a minimum of resources, and provided opportunities for professional growth to a number of early career scientists. For its foresight and support of Salud America!, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation merits acclaim."

Explore further: Parent-training intervention curbs pediatric obesity rates, study shows

Related Stories

Parent-training intervention curbs pediatric obesity rates, study shows

February 15, 2012
A UCLA study has found that a new parent-training program is effective in reducing the risk of low-income, preschool-age Latino children being overweight.

UConn report finds one-third of Hartford's preschoolers overweight or obese

November 29, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—A study conducted by University of Connecticut researchers finds more than one-third of Hartford preschoolers are overweight or obese with rates far above the national average for children of the same age. ...

Parents important in steering kids away from sedentary activities

April 30, 2012
Parents can have a significant impact in steering young children away from too much time spent in sedentary pursuits. This new study, in the American Journal of Health Promotion, found this effect in Hispanic families, whose ...

AHA: New school fitness assessment will aid in the battle against childhood obesity

September 11, 2012
American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown issued the following comments on a unified fitness assessment program announced today by The President's Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition; the American Alliance for Health, ...

Recommended for you

Study finds 90 percent of American men overfat

July 24, 2017
Does your waist measure more than half your height?

Are sugary drink interventions changing people's behaviour?

July 19, 2017
An evaluation of efforts designed to reduce how many sugary drinks we consume shows some success in changing younger people's habits but warns they cannot be the only way to cut consumption.

Young adult obesity: A neglected, yet essential focus to reverse the obesity epidemic

July 18, 2017
The overall burden of the U.S. obesity epidemic continues to require new thinking. Prevention of obesity in young adults, while largely ignored as a target for prevention and study, will be critical to reversing the epidemic, ...

Weight gain from early to middle adulthood may increase risk of major chronic diseases

July 18, 2017
Cumulative weight gain over the course of early and middle adulthood may increase health risks later in life, according to a new study led by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. They found that, compared ...

Study finds children carry implicit bias towards peers who are overweight

June 23, 2017
Even children as young as 9 years old can carry a prejudice against their peers who are overweight, according to a new study led by Duke Health researchers. They might not even realize they feel this way.

Mother's obesity boosts risk for major birth defects: study

June 15, 2017
Children of obese women are more likely to be afflicted by major birth defects, including malformations of the heart and genitals, according to a study published on Thursday.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.