Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Report: Latino Children Need More “Active Spaces”

Many Latino children enjoy limited opportunities to engage in physical activity and exercise in their communities, according to a new study. That’s because they may not have nearby access to the proper facilities and safe “active spaces.”

This can negatively impact the ability of children to maintain a health weight, and could promote obesity.

The research is part of several recent and upcoming studies compiled by Salud America! The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Research Network to Prevent Obesity Among Latino Children. The report was mostly based on surveys.

Such spaces include recreation centers, school gyms, athletic fields and playgrounds. According to the report, efforts to improve access often become stalled by concerns about costs related to staffing, maintenance and liability.

The study suggests shared-use agreements as one solution. These agreements can often take place between schools and cities. Safety also can be a key concern. For this reason the study suggests street improvements such as fixing sidewalks and adding bike lanes.

Often, such concerns can block schools from making their facilities open to the public outside of school hours — and in particular, liability is a top barrier.

According to the report, the obesity rate among Latino children is about 38 percent, compared with 29 percent for white children. Additionally a Census survey found Latino children were less likely than white children to say they had safe places to play in their neighborhoods.

Indeed, safety can be key. The study references another survey of residents of unincorporated colonias in Hidalgo County, Texas. The children noted that deterrents from outdoor activities included trash-filled streets, bad odors, playgrounds in poor conditions, stray dogs and gangs. Streets also lacked sidewalks and crosswalks.

The study noted that when asked, children requested more parks, recreation areas, basketball courts, street lights, and police.

The report lists several examples of successful shared use agreements in California. They include the Healthy High Desert program in Adelanto, California. The school district and city government partnered to create a park on an empty lot next to an elementary school.