Research: Latino kids have fewer opportunities for active play

New research package explores strategies for increasing active play, lowering obesity in Latino children

SAN ANTONIO (July 25, 2013) — Studies suggest that Latino kids have fewer opportunities to engage in physical activity than their white counterparts.

Latino kids also are less likely than white kids to meet federal recommendations of at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day due to fewer parks and other active spaces, fewer school- or community-based physical activity programs, and differing parenting styles.

But culturally relevant school- and community-based programs, better access to active play sites, and education for parents can help young Latinos become more physically active, according to a new package of research materials from Salud America! The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Research Network to Prevent Obesity Among Latino Children.

“Health departments, schools and communities should collaborate on culturally relevant after-school programs or activities to help Latino kids meet the federal standard of 60 minutes of daily physical activity,” said Amelie G. Ramirez, Dr.P.H. director of Salud America!, based at the Institute for Health Promotion Research, part of the School of Medicine at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio. Salud America! is a national network of stakeholders seeking environmental and policy solutions to Latino obesity.

The new Salud America! “Active Play for Latino Kids” research materials start off with an in-depth review of the latest science on the state of U.S. Latino childhood physical activity and policy implications based on that research. The full package of materials also includes an original animated video and infographic.

Kids from low-income communities tend to have less access to parks, playgrounds and fields. In Latino neighborhoods, studies show that kids are often exposed to violent crime, and fear of crime curbs their outdoor active play.

Also, majority-minority schools tend to offer few programs supporting physical activity. Elementary schools with primarily Latino students were less likely than those with primarily white students to offer 20 minutes of recess daily, or physical education for at least 150 minutes per week.

But implementing structured programs for active play at and after school may increase physical activity levels among Latino kids, studies show. Such programs have proven to reduce inactive behaviors among Latino preschoolers and Latina middle-school girls. A walking program for Latinos also improved kids’ fitness by 37.1 percent.

Other ways to increase active play include:

  • School administrators and staff should develop strategies for increasing opportunities for physical activity during the school day.
  • Neighborhood maps of physical activity resources should identify the need and appropriate areas for more park and recreation spaces in Latino communities.
  • Street-scale improvements and programs that facilitate safe transport are needed to increase use of physical activity sites in Latino communities.

Research shows that inactive Latino parents tend to have kids who also are inactive.

“It is important to educate Latino parents that monitoring and rewarding healthy behaviors may improve the level of physical activity in their children,” Dr. Ramirez said.

The new research package is the fourth of six new research material packages by Salud America!, each focused on a specific topic on Latino childhood obesity:

Each topic’s package contains: a research review, an assessment of all available scientific evidence on the topic; an issue brief, a short summary of the research review; an animated video narrated by Latino children; and an infographic, a visual summary of the topic.

Salud America! is a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). Founded in 2007, the program aims to educate and support researchers, decision-makers, community leaders, and the public in contributing toward healthier Latino communities and seeking environmental and policy solutions to the epidemic of Latino childhood obesity. 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

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 National Institutes of Health funding. The university’s schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced approximately 28,000 graduates. The $736 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

The Institute for Health Promotion Research (IHPR) at The UT 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 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. Visit the IHPR at Please visit our blog or follow us @SaludToday on social media.

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, measurable, and timely change. For more than 40 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime. For more information, visit

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