Museum’s Kid-Friendly ‘Body Adventure’ Boosts Health in San Antonio


Visitors explore at the H-E-B Body Adventure at the Witte Museum in San Antonio
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The Witte Museum’s H-E-B Body Adventure exhibit has made a positive health impact on more than 500,000 children and adults in San Antonio (68% Latino) since its launch in 2014, according to a new report by museum officials.

“It’s really a safe haven to encourage the community to find out and explore that physical activity, healthy eating and rest and relaxation are fun,” Dr. Bryan Bayles, the museum’s curator of anthropology and health, told KSAT-TV.

Visitors explore at the H-E-B Body Adventure at the Witte Museum in San Antonio
Visitors explore at the H-E-B Body Adventure at the Witte Museum in San Antonio (via the Witte Museum website).

The exhibit, now in its third year, works like this, according to the Rivard Report:

The H-E-B Body Adventure is a modular interactive, electronic, hands-on experience for both children and adults that involves activities like working off the calories of a soda on a step machine, dissecting the human body at a simulated autopsy table under the supervision of UT medical students, and being hooked up with electrodes that translate brain waves into magnetic impulses that move ping-pong balls across a table in a high-tech meditation game called “Relax to Win.” During each of the modular experiences, data is collected that cumulatively describes the health of a large cross-section of our youth.

Peer modeling and gaming technologies, along with physical activity, a cultural focus, and a fourstory, immersive indoor-outdoor experience, are also an important part of the H-E-B Body Adventure’s learning experience.

The exhibit’s data helps tell a critical story about the health of local youth, according to a new report by Bayles.

“We can collect very important data on the community at the local level, even the ZIP code level,” Bayles told KSAT-TV. “No other city in the nation is doing this at this level. This kind of data at this local level it is very, very rare and we are hoping it will become a model for other communities.”

What Does the Body Adventure Data Say?

The new data shows that the H-E-B Body Adventure exhibit, also supported by the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District and University Health System, welcomed 140,848 visitors in 2017. More than 500,000 children or adults have visited since 2014.

Bayles shared several data highlights at a press conference in December 2017.

Some positive findings from the report show that:

  • 52% of respondents reported fruit as a their healthy snack of choice;
  • 90% of Bexar Co. respondents reported safe places for physical activity;
  • An example of a H-E-B Body Adventure POWERprofile, created for each POWERpass users who visits the museum (via the Witte Museum website).

    49% reported safe places near where they live; and

  • 59.3% of youth ages 8-12 reported being active for 1 hour, 3 or more times a week (for the previous week)

As seen in previous years, for girls swimming/water sports (23.5%) and dancing (21.5%) topped the list in popularity. Among boys, team sports (32.5%) followed by running (18.8%) were most popular.

Areas for improvement include:

  • 36% of youth 13-18 reported no vegetables the previous day & 32% ate no fruit the previous day;
  • 27.3% of kids ages 8-12 were obese (slightly higher than in previous years but not significantly);
  • 65.2% of Bexar County youth ages 13-18 reported 2+ hours watching TV or playing video
    Kids who visit the H-E-B Body Adventure experience healthy changes through using their POWERpass and participating in activities like virtually riding along Texas trails (via the Witte Museum website).

    games during the school week;

  • 20% of youth ages 13-18 drink 2 or more sodas per day; and
  • 18.4% of school-aged boys (ages 8-18) were more likely than girls (14.8%) to drink 2 or more sodas a day.

The report also found that boys were more likely than girls to report not eating fruit or vegetables.

Looking ahead at promoting childhood health

“Over 75% of health care funding is spent on largely preventable chronic diseases,” Bayles said.

Bayles said data will continue to be collected and analyzed to identify trends in child health. Check out H-E-B Body Adventure’s annual report from Year 1, Year 2, and Year 3, or find more info here.

Have you been to the H-E-B Body Adventure? What do you think?

What are some new ways communities can come together together to bridge the health education gap?

Innovative partnerships and efforts like the one presented here are just what we need to make a broader impact impact on Latino health!

Read more about ways to bring healthy change to your community by checking out some of our latest Salud Hero stories. Know of someone making a positive impact for Latino health? Be sure to share your own stories of healthy innovation with Salud America!

Editor’s Note: This Salud America! resource post was prepared by Rosalie Aguilar in her personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article do not reflect the view of either the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District or the Witte Museum.

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