Research

Research Packages

Salud America! focuses on six topics of potential change to reduce and prevent Latino childhood obesity. Each topic has an in-depth scientific Research Review and a shorter Issue Brief, along with a bilingual informational video and infographic.

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Healthier School Snacks & Latino Kids

Latino students are widely exposed to high-fat, high-sugar snacks and drinks sold in schools, but stronger nutritional standards can yield healthier school snacks.

Better Food in the Neighborhood

Many Latino families do not have access to healthy affordable foods, but a variety of policy initiatives and food subsidies may improve the food environment and add more supermarkets and farmers’ markets in underserved communities.

Active Spaces

Latino kids often have limited access to safe places where they can be active, but shared use of gyms, athletic fields, and playgrounds, as well as street-level safety improvements, can increase access to recreational facilities at schools and other sites.

Active Play

Structured school- and community-based programs that are culturally relevant have demonstrated some success in increasing physical activity among Latino children.

Healthier Marketing

As the vast majority of food products advertised to youths are unhealthy and Latino youths are disproportionately targeted with unhealthy food ads, demand exists for industry regulation of advertising.

Sugary Drinks

Latino kids consume more sugary drinks than the national average, but change in cost of sugary drinks could reduce consumption of added sugar.

 

Past Research

In 2011, Salud America! also released a trio of national research briefs:

Past Grantee Research

In 2009, RWJF, through Salud America!, funded 20 two-year pilot research grants to inform policymakers and advocates working to prevent/reduce Latino childhood obesity.

Each grantee produced a research brief on their work.

See a full list of 20 research briefs (December 2011) or learn about each project and grantee:

 

Dr. Monika Stodolska, University of Illinois

This Salud America! pilot research study aims to provide more information on the relationship between crime and physical activity among Latino youths. The study aims to inform policymakers and practitioners as they devise culturally-appropriate, practical approaches to increase physical activity among Latino youths, and thus help reduce obesity. The study is evaluating physical activity and outdoor recreation among Latino youths ages 11-14 in grades 6-8, and ages 15-18 in grades 9-12. The study is assessing their behavior in three environments: school yards and grounds; community parks; and neighborhood streets, sidewalks, alleys and yards in Chicago’s Little Village, also known as South Lawndale. Many factors that may moderate the effects of crime are being examined, including gender and to what extent the youths have adopted U.S. cultural practices.

Dr. Meizi He, UT San Antonio

This Salud America! pilot research project conducted interviews and focus groups among church leaders and congregations to gather their insights on childhood obesity. We included samples of primarily Latino churches (five Catholic and four Protestant) in the West Side of San Antonio, Texas. In-depth interviews were conducted with 35 Latino church leaders and focus groups were facilitated with 41 church-attending Latino children ages 10 to 17 and their parents (one per child) in the West Side.

Dr. Cristina Barroso, UTSPH Brownsville

This Salud America! pilot research project has two primary aims: to examine body image perceptions across three generations of low-income Latinos, and to study the association between body image and physical activity in the same population. The subjects of our study are residents of colonias in Texas’ Lower Rio Grande Valley on the U.S.-Mexico border, a region that faces high rates of obesity as well as other health problems. The project also asked members of colonia familes (including the child, parent, and, if possible, grandparent) to view sketches of body shapes and body sizes and to select images they perceive as healthy, as well as the image that most resembles their own body. Parents and grandparents also select the image that resembles their child/grandchild.

Dr. Carmen Nevarez, Public Health Institute

This Salud America! pilot research project is evaluating the Salud Tiene Sabor program. Salud Tiene Sabor, the first program of its kind in California, supports healthy food choices in restaurants by providing access to healthy menu items and nutrition information, including calories posted on menu boards. In collaboration with Esperanza Community Housing Corporation and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, seven independent restaurants have implemented the Sabor program at Mercado La Paloma, a community marketplace with restaurants, shops, social services and cultural events in South Los Angeles that serves primarily Latino residents. The study's evaluation team is assessing the impact the Sabor program is having on consumers’ purchase intentions, vendor practices and sales, replication by other venues, and the effect the California menu labeling law has on these independent restaurants.

Dr. Norma Olvera, University of Houston

This Salud America! pilot research project assesses the immediate and long-term impact the Behavior Opportunities Uniting in Nutrition, Counseling, and Exercise (BOUNCE) program has on indicators of adiposity, or obesity: body mass index (BMI), weight, waist circumference and body fat percentage. The study also assessed the impact of the program on minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) among overweight Latina girls. Mother-daughter pairs enrolled in BOUNCE participated in a four-week healthy lifestyle summer program, followed by a 12-week, family-based aerobic program and four monthly peer-led sessions.

Dr. Claudia L. Galindo, University of Maryland

This Salud America! pilot research project studied factors and behaviors that may affect weight, nutrition and physical activity among Latino youth. This study examined the weight status of 5-year-old Latino children in kindergarten and how their weight changed through 5th grade, compared with their White, African-American and Asian peers. It also examines variations in weight among Latino subgroups by country and region of origin and socioeconomic status (SES). Study data come from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort (ECLS-K), sponsored by the National Center for Education Statistics. The ECLS-K is a nationally representative sample of 21,000 students from the kindergarten class of 1998–99. The study sample of 17,000 kindergarteners—after excluding foreign-born White and African-American students—included 3,600 Latinos.

Dr. Robert Dudley, Community Health Center, Inc. (Conn.)

This Salud America! pilot research project was a mid-course evaluation of a project called Healthy Tomorrows for Teens (HTT). It is a five-year (2007-2012), federally-funded obesity prevention and advocacy training program for adolescent girls. The program was implemented in New Britain High School, which has a large population of Puerto Rican students and is the largest high school in Connecticut. As part of HTT, Latina girls participate in nutritional counseling, YWCA fitness programs and community service learning and leadership projects. The mid-course evaluation assessed HTT strengths and weaknesses to support performance improvements and sustainability in Years 4-5 (emphasizing Latina teens’ participation in physical activity). To identify factors that promote or prevent consistent physical activity among Latina teens, we conducted nine focus groups with 36 teens and 40 parents (87 percent Latino). HTT staff also conducted three Photovoice sessions to assess the city of New Britain to identify barriers to physical activity.

Dr. Myriam Torres, University of South Carolina

This Salud America! pilot project brought together public health researchers, community leaders and Latino families to study and develop effective policy recommendations regarding physical activity among Latino children from a growing immigrant settlement in West Columbia, South Carolina. Researchers utilized Photovoice to collect data from Latina mothers and interviewed community stakeholders. Recommendations regarding physical activity and nutrition among children will be developed in collaboration with Latina mothers from West Columbia, South Carolina. Photovoice is a community-based participatory research strategy that combines photography with grassroots action to identify health issues.

Dr. Angela Wiley, University of Illinois

This Salud America! pilot research project takes a family-based approach—accounting for developmental patterns of behavior and practices in early mealtime experiences. The goal is to prevent childhood obesity and promote wellbeing among Spanish-speaking families in non-metropolitan communities in Illinois, a state which has experienced two-fold growth of Latino families over the past 10 years. Abriendo Caminos assumes that sustainable health promotion requires building on existing family strengths. The program seeks to build positive connections between healthy habits and family life to promote healthy eating and joint physical activity, preserve family traditions, and build stronger relationships between Latino children and their parents. The 6-week curriculum actively involves Latino families in food preparation, shared physical activity emphasizing culturally-tailored elements, and shared mealtimes featuring family storytelling and scrapbooking.

Dr. Nelda Mier, Texas A&M Health Science Center

This Salud America! pilot research project aims to produce policy recommendations for improving the built environment to support physical activity (PA) among low-income Mexican-American children and their families in 14colonias in Hidalgo County, Texas. Colonias are unincorporated settlements along the U.S.-Mexico border where many people live in impoverished conditions and lack basic services such as running water. As part of the study, we are: Investigating the perceptions children ages 8-13 have about environmental factors that influence their PA; documenting the environmental characteristics of colonias; and reaching out to local stakeholders and policymakers regarding PA among children and families incolonias.

Dr. Dina Castro, University of North Carolina

This Salud America! pilot research project uses community gardens and parental nutrition education and activities to promote healthy eating and physical activity among lower-income Latino families who have young children. The project established three community gardens in Orange County, N.C., between 2008 and 2010. During 2010 these gardens served 42 families (25 Latino), including 88 children ages 1 to 12 (54 are Latino; 92 percent are from lower-income families).

Dr. Shari Barkin, Vanderbilt University Medical Center

This Salud America! pilot research project assessed how exposure to a community recreation center affects whether or not Latino families with young children use the center for physical activity. The assessment was conducted one year after the families participated in a culturally-relevant healthy-lifestyles program conducted at the recreation center. Our study population consisted of 132 parents self-identified as Latino, paired with their child who was 3 to 5 years old. Sixty-six of the pairs received a 12-week parent-child intervention that included access to physical activity resources via center memberships for the whole family (exposed group). The other pairs were matched to the exposed group’s residential zip code and child’s age, but were not made aware of center programming, nor given any information regarding physical activity opportunities offered through the center (unexposed group).

Dr. Alexy Arauz Boudreau, Massachusetts General Hospital

This Salud America! pilot research project is testing the feasibility and effectiveness of a family-centered approach consisting of interactive group classes followed by six months of health coaching. The group classes for Latino families with obese children, known as Power-Up, are delivered by an interdisciplinary team that includes a physician, nutritionist, physical therapist and health educator. The study design entails an intervention group and a waitlist control group. Outcome measures include body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, skinfold, physical activity, dietary assessment, quality of life and metabolic markers.

Dr. Miriam Vega, Latino Commission on AIDS (NY)

This Salud America! pilot research project aims to better understand knowledge, attitudes and communication behaviors related to food consumption and preferences among Latino parents and children, as well as the built and cultural environments in which they make decisions. The study recognizes the need to create, test and disseminate new interventions that reduce obesity rates for Hispanic immigrants, especially in terms of health communication around nutrition and obesity. To do this, the study is conducting outreach and interview sessions with Hispanic mothers and children. With 50 mother/child pairs, the study will conduct screening and intake sessions, administer a survey on various psycho-social variables (such as acculturative stress and attachment styles), calculate body mass indices (BMI), discuss a family eating scene, and create virtual shopping lists.

Dr. Harris Huberman, SUNY Downstate Med Center

This Salud America! pilot research project is a low-cost parenting intervention to reduce rates of overweight and obesity in Latino children during the first three years of life. The intervention is built around a series of age-paced parenting newsletters called Primeros Pasos in Spanish or Building Blocks in English (PP/BB), which are mailed monthly to families beginning at the birth of a child through age 3. The front page of each newsletter features an activity for the parent to try out with the child, and other content address obesity prevention with explicit messages about parent-child feeding interactions, general guidance on nutrition including breastfeeding, supplemental feedings, parenting, safety and discipline. Parents also receive periodic developmental surveys with added parenting questions based on the PP/BB newsletter messages, and quarterly telephone follow-up calls by a program staffer. In a randomized controlled trial, the study compared rates of overweight and obesity among children who had either received the PP/BB intervention (225 children) or were in a control group (225 children).

Dr. Javier Rosado, Florida State University

This Salud America! pilot research project assesses how much weight-related medical attention children receive during well-child checkups at a pediatric community health center in a rural, predominantly Latino, migrant farm-worker community. Using structured interviews, parents were asked immediately after the well-child visit to assess: 1) if their child’s weight was discussed by the physician; 2) parents’ awareness of and agreement with weight-related information, when provided; 3) family perceptions of what is considered overweight and any gender-based differences in those perceptions; and 4) family interest in influencing their child’s weight, and what they would need to do so. Parents of children ages 3-16 were invited to participate.

Dr. Dharma Cortes, University of Massachusetts

This Salud America! pilot research project examines how an educational intervention informed by low-literacy principles (i.e., guidelines to ease understanding of complex themes like nutrition) could be used to increase food literacy and change consumer behavior to increase healthy eating among low-income Spanish-speaking Latinos. The study is evaluating specific consumer behaviors—food purchasing and consumption—among 20 low-income, Spanish-speaking Latino families with children under age 18. Baseline data on food purchasing, food consumption patterns, and healthy eating first were collected using various qualitative and quantitative research methods, including participant observations of families’ grocery shopping, nutritional analysis of families’ grocery store receipts, interviews, and photographs by children of families’ food environments. Home visits and educational sessions were conducted to teach families strategies to buy healthier food with a limited budget.

Dr. Rebecca London, Standford University

This Salud America! pilot research project examines the link between participation in community-based after-school programming and physical fitness and overweight status among adolescents in a San Francisco Bay Area community. The study used individual-level administrative data from public and private agencies in Redwood City, Calif., to ask the following questions: 1) What is the extent of participation in primarily fitness-focused and other types of after-school programs? Which students are most likely to participate in each?; and 2) What are the effects of participation in after-school programs on students’ physical fitness and overweight trajectories over time? Are there differences in the effects of fitness-focused programs and other types of programs? To answer these questions, we examined the fitness and overweight status of 1,105 5th and 7th grade students. The study followed the same students over four years to analyze whether participating in after-school programs had an effect on whether a student was physically fit, and on whether he or she was overweight two years later, when they were in 7th and 9th grades, respectively. Students were mostly Latino (63%).

Dr. Zan Gao, Texas Tech University

This Salud America! pilot research study examines the impact of a structured exercise program (e.g., the interactive video game Dance Dance Revolution [DDR], during which players stomp on a dance mat to mimic the steps of an on-screen dancer; aerobic dance; jump rope; etc.) on physical fitness and academic performance among urban Latino children. The study compared physical fitness levels and reading and math test scores of students who participated in the exercise intervention (with DDR) to those in a comparison group. Fitness was measured using the FITNESSGRAM test, including a 1-mile run and body mass index (BMI) assessment. Academic performance was measured using the students’ reading and math scores from the Utah Performance Assessment System’s Criterion-Referenced Tests. The study also conducted in-depth student interviews assessing students’ experience in the exercise program.

Dr. Emma Sanchez, San Fransisco State University

This Salud America! pilot research project uses existing data to investigate whether school district compliance with California physical education (P.E.) requirements influences fitness among the state’s Latino/Hispanic children. The study combined four sources of data: school district compliance with P.E. policies, children’s data from Fitnessgram for the school years 2004–06, California Department of Education data on district and school characteristics, and U.S. Census data. Our sample included 60,817 5th grade Latino/Hispanic students across 55 school districts. The study examined the characteristics of children by comparing children that attended schools in districts that complied with California P.E. requirements to children that attended schools in districts that did not comply with the policies. The study then conducted analyses to determine whether compliance with P.E. policies influenced Latino/Hispanic children’s fitness levels, after taking into account individual, school and district factors which might influence links between district-level policy compliance and fitness.

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