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Research: Latino Kids Lack Access to Safe ‘Active Spaces’


Latino kids often have limited access to safe gyms, fields, and playgrounds, but shared use agreements and street-level improvements can improve access to these “active spaces” in underserved communities and may help young Latinos become more physically active and maintain a healthy weight, 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.

The new Salud America! “Active Spaces for Latino Kids” has a research review of the latest science, an original animated video, and an infographic.

A study shows that 81 percent of Latino neighborhoods did not have a recreational facility, compared with 38 percent of White neighborhoods.

Fewer schools provided public access to their physical activity facilities in 2006 (29%) than did in 2000 (35%).

Shared use agreements—formal contracts between entities that outline terms for sharing public spaces for physical activity—have increased access to active spaces in Latino communities.

“Shared use agreements can help open school spaces to the public by protecting against liability and promoting shared costs and staffing,” said Amelie G. Ramirez, director of Salud America!, based at the Institute for Health Promotion Research at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio. Salud America! is a national network of stakeholders seeking environmental and policy solutions to Latino obesity.

Other ways to increase use of active spaces include:

“Complete streets”—repairing sidewalks and installing street lights, trails, and bike lanes—also can help Latino families walk and bike more safely to active spaces

Studies show that more people walk or bike to active sites when those sites are closer to home and safer to travel to. Evaluating the characteristics of active spaces can ensure those spaces (and new ones) meet Latinos’ cultural needs.

“Open streets” close off all vehicular traffic and create safe, inviting active spaces for residents.

A program in a Latino-majority urban area of Chicago used an open streets model that closed streets to vehicles and allowed 10,000-plus residents to walk, run, and bike.

The new research package is the third of six new research material packages by Salud America!, each of which focused on a specific topic on Latino childhood obesity:
healthier school snacks;
better food in the neighborhood;
active spaces;
• active play (coming July 2013);
• healthier marketing (coming August 2013), and
• sugary drinks (coming August 2013)

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