249155 Promoting Healthy Environments for Latino Children Living in Border Colonias: Community Perspectives of Needed Policy Actions

Monday, October 31, 2011

Nelda Mier, PhD , Social and Behavioral Health, Texas A&M School of Rural Public Health, McAllen, TX
David Irizarry Jr., BS, MPH-C , Health Policy and Management, Texas A&M Health Science Center: School of Rural Public Health McAllen Campus, McAllen, TX
Matthew Lee Smith, PhD, MPH, CHES , Department of Health Promotion and Behavior, The University of Georgia, College of Public Health, Athens, GA
Chanam Lee, PhD, MLA , Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX
Xiaohui Wang, PhD , Department of Mathematics, The University of Texas-Pan American, Edinburg, TX
Laura Treviņo , Associate Regional Director, Lower Rio Grande Valley, Colonias Program of the Center for Housing and Urban Development (CHUD), Weslaco, TX
Maria C. Alen, MD , School of Rural Public Health, South Texas Center Texas A&M HSC, McAllen, TX
Marcia G. Ory, PhD, MPH , Social & Behavioral Health, Texas A&M HSC School of Rural Public Health, College Station, TX
Elias Avila-Rodriguez, PhD , Facultad de Medicina, Universidad Juarez del Estado de Durango, Durango, Mexico
Background: Latino children living in impoverished neighborhoods along the U.S-Mexico border are disproportionately overweight and sedentary. There is a growing literature about environmental influences that may improve the lifestyle of Latino children. Policy changes to modify poor infrastructure and safety issues, which impede physical activity (PA) among children, need to be identified for community action. Purpose: To produce environmental policy recommendations to promote PA among border Latino children. Methods: A qualitative study was conducted in the South Texas border region. Data were gathered through 10 focus groups with children ages 8-13 (n=67), an environmental assessment (n=14 colonias), and 6 community meetings (n=72 participants) in Hidalgo County, Texas. Results: Children stated the presence of trash and gangs, lack of lighting, speedy cars, bad weather, unleashed dogs, and inadequate playgrounds were environmental barriers affecting their PA behaviors. An environmental assessment confirmed that colonias pose many challenges to PA. Community meetings with stakeholders yielded overwhelming recommendations for more funding for outreach programs and community organizations, better distribution of infrastructure funds, establishment of a local shuttle service, and greater presence of representatives in colonias. The stakeholders emphasized the need for transportation serving colonia children and families to and from recreational facilities. Conclusion: Promoting supportive environments for PA among border Latino children requires complex strategies, including policies improving transportation and generating funds for infrastructure and community programs. Improvement of the colonias' built environment may be possible through involvement of both political leaders and community members.

Learning Areas:
Chronic disease management and prevention
Environmental health sciences
Public health or related public policy
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Identify the perspectives and experiences of Latino children living in the colonias on how the built environment affects their physical activiy. Analyze the stakeholder's recommendations and discuss the policy implications of these recommendations.

Keywords: Physical Activity, Community Research

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am an experienced researcher and professor with a Ph.D in Health Education.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.