Salud America! has launched a new toolkit to help parents push for local schoolyard-sharing, as well as a national letter campaign to urge state PTA associations to prioritize public sharing of school recreational facilities among all schools after class.
Many Latino families live near schools that lock gyms, courts, pools, fields and playgrounds before and after class—meaning kids miss the physical, mental and social benefits of physical activity and play—according to a recent research review by Salud America!, a national Latino childhood obesity prevention network based at the Health Science Center and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Schools can adopt an “open use” policy to formally grant public access to its recreational facilities after school hours.
Schools also can work with other groups to develop a “shared use agreement,” a contract to allow the sharing of school facilities for the public or groups after hours.
“The future of Latino and all children depends on accessible opportunities for physical activity, which is scientifically proven to reduce disease risk and improve physical, mental, social, and emotional well-being,” said Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez, director of Salud America! and the Institute for Health Promotion Research at the Health Science Center.
More than 38 percent of Latino children ages 2-19 are overweight or obese, compared to 28.5 percent of White youth and 35.2 percent of Black youth. Latino kids and families tend to live in neighborhoods with limited access to physical activity that helps promote healthy weight and physical, social, and emotional development.
Open and shared use policies can increase opportunities for childhood physical activity and play.
For example, in Earlimart, Calif., school and county leaders developed a shared use policy for existing playgrounds, but also led to a brand-new school park for school and public use.
In Minneapolis, Minnesota, the school board and parks board worked with local organizations, non-profits, and colleges to optimize public use of a neighborhood pool and share maintenance responsibility. Swimming, for example, is associated with physiological, emotional, and behavioral development.
“We are excited to work toward expanding the opportunities for Latino and all kids to get physical activity that can contribute to healthy weight and holistic health,” Ramirez said.