Obesity among Latino youth examined in new research briefs

Contact: Cliff Despres, (210) 562-6517

Briefs analyze factors contributing to Latino childhood obesity and offer potential solutions

SAN ANTONIO (Dec. 9, 2011) — Salud America!, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) based at the Institute for Health Promotion Research at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, has released a comprehensive collection of research briefs examining the obesity epidemic among Latino children and teens.

Three new national briefs review current evidence with respect to Latino youth in three major areas: the availability of healthy, affordable foods; opportunities for physical activity; and the impact of food marketing on diets and potentially even obesity rates.

These briefs also provide policy recommendations, including:

  • Efforts to bring healthy foods into neighborhoods and schools should particularly focus on Latino communities, since they are disproportionately affected by the epidemic.
  • Policies that can help people be physically active in their neighborhoods should emphasize Latino populations because they are more likely to live in areas that do not support such activity.
  • Efforts to reduce exposure to unhealthy food and beverage marketing should consider that Latino youth are particularly targeted by advertisers.
  • Health programs and messages should be culturally sensitive, relevant for all populations and produced in both English and Spanish.

In addition to these three briefs, 20 pilot grantees funded by RWJF through Salud America! have produced briefs highlighting their own, new research. These briefs analyze a wide range of issues, from the impact of menu labeling in small restaurants in south Los Angeles, to how after-school programs can help Latino youth be active and how community gardens can help lower-income Latino families eat more fruits and vegetables.

“These briefs provide a snapshot of the state of the Latino childhood obesity epidemic and describe how leaders and policymakers can more effectively address it,” said Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez, director of Salud America!, a national network of researchers, community leaders and policymakers who are working together to increase the number of Latino scientists seeking environmental and policy solutions to address Latino childhood obesity. Dr. Ramirez is a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics in the School of Medicine of the UT Health Science Center.

Latinos are currently the most populous and fastest-growing U.S. ethnic minority. Over the last decade, the Latino population has grown by more than 40 percent.

And according to recent estimates, nearly 40 percent of Latino children and teens are overweight and more than 20 percent are obese.

Get full text of the national briefs:

Get full text of the grantee briefs from Texas:

  • Dr. Cristina Barroso, Body Image and Childhood Obesity in Mexican-Americans (The University of Texas School of Public Health, Brownsville Regional Campus)
  • Dr. Zan Gao, Impact of Physical Activity on Physical Health and Academic Performance (Texas Tech University)
  • Dr. Meizi He, Latino Faith-Based Communities’ Perspective on Childhood Obesity Prevention (The University of Texas at San Antonio)
  • Dr. Nelda Mier, Built Environment Policy for Physical Activity in Mexican-American Children (Texas A&M Health Science Center)
  • Dr. Norma Olvera, Combating Obesity and Inactivity in Latina Girls (University of Houston)

Get full text of the grantee briefs from outside Texas:

  • Dr. Shari Barkin, Exposure to Recreation Center Increases Use by Latino Families with Young Children (Tennessee)
  • Dr. Alexy Arauz Boudreau, A Family Approach to Promote Positive Lifestyle Choices among Latino Children (Massachusetts)
  • Dr. Dina Castro, Community Garden Project Helps Increase Latino Children’s Access to Healthy Foods, Saves Families Money (North Carolina)
  • Dr. Dharma Cortes, Improving Food Purchasing Selection among Low-Income Spanish-Speaking Latinos (Massachusetts)
  • Dr. Robert W. Dudley, A Family-Centered Program to Promote Wellness for Latino Children (Connecticut)
  • Dr. Claudia L. Galindo, Obesity Among Young Latino Children: Disparities and Changes Over Time (Maryland)
  • Dr. Harris Huberman, Using Spanish Parenting Newsletters to Reduce Young Latino Children’s Weight (New York)
  • Dr. Rebecca London, Community-Based After-School Programs and Youth Physical Fitness (California)
  • Dr. Carmen Nevarez, Salud Tiene Sabor: Creating Healthy Eating Environments for Latino Families (California)
  • Dr. Javier Rosado, Paying Attention to Children’s Weight in Pediatric Primary Care (Florida)
  • Dr. Emma Sanchez, School District Compliance with P.E. Policies Matters for Physical Fitness among Latino Children (California)
  • Dr. Monika Stodolska, Crime, Physical Activity and Outdoor Recreation Among Latino Adolescents (Illinois)
  • Dr. Myriam E. Torres, Voices of Latina Mothers and School Staff on Childhood Obesity (South Carolina)
  • Dr. Miriam Y. Vega, La Familia en la Cocina is Speaking Two Languages (New York)
  • Dr. Angela R. Wiley, A Family-Centered Program to Promote Wellness for Latino Children (Illinois)

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, one of the country’s leading health sciences universities, ranks in the top 3 percent of all institutions worldwide receiving federal funding. Research and other sponsored program activity totaled $228 million in fiscal year 2010. The university’s schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced approximately 26,000 graduates. The $744 million operating budget supports eight campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. For more information on the many ways “We make lives better®,” visit www.uthscsa.edu.

The Institute for Health Promotion Research (IHPR) at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio investigates the causes and solutions to the unequal impact of cancer and chronic disease among certain populations, including Latinos, in San Antonio, South Texas and the nation. The IHPR, founded in 2006, uses evidence-guided research, training and community outreach to improve the health of those at a disadvantage due to race/ethnicity or social determinants, such as education or income. Visit the IHPR online at http://ihpr.uthscsa.edu or follow its blog at http://www.saludtoday.com/blog.

Salud America! is a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The program aims to unite and increase the number of Latino researchers, policymakers and community leaders engaged seeking environmental and policy solutions to the epidemic. The network is directed by the Institute for Health Promotion Research at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. For more information, visit .

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