Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Public Health and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

Understanding contextual barriers, supports, and opportunities for physical activity among Mexican-origin children in Texas border colonias: A descriptive study

M Renée Umstattd Meyer1*, Joseph R Sharkey2, Megan S Patterson1 and Wesley R Dean2

Author Affiliations

1 Baylor University, Department of Health, Human Performance, and Recreation, One Bear Place 97313, Waco, TX, 76798, USA

2 Program for Research in Nutrition and Health Disparities, Department of Health Promotion and Community Health Sciences, Texas A&M School of Rural Public Health, TAMU, 1266, College Station, TX, 77843-1266, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Public Health 2013, 13:14  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-14

Published: 8 January 2013

Abstract

Background

The increasing numbers of colonias along the U.S.-Mexico border are characterized by disproportionately poor families of Mexican-origin, limited access to resources and health services, and heightened risk for obesity and diabetes. Despite consistent evidence supporting physical activity (PA) in prevention of chronic diseases, many individuals of Mexican-origin, including children, fail to meet PA recommendations. Environmental influences on PA, founded in ecological and social cognitive perspectives, have not been examined among children living in colonias. The purpose of this study was to identify and better understand (1) household and neighborhood environmental PA resources/supports, (2) perceived barriers to engaging in PA, and (3) PA offerings, locations, and transportation characteristics for Mexican-origin children living in colonias.

Methods

Data for this study were collected by promotora-researchers (indigenous community health workers trained in research methods) using face-to-face interviews conducted in Spanish. The sample consists of 94 mother-child dyads from Texas border colonias in Hidalgo County. Interviews included questionnaire items addressing PA barriers, household and neighborhood environmental support assessments conducted with each dyad, and open-ended questions that were coded to identify availability and locations of PA opportunities and transportation options. Descriptive statistics were calculated and differences between genders, birth countries, and BMI categories of children were determined using chi-square tests.

Results

All children were of Mexican-origin. The most frequently reported barriers were unleashed dogs in the street, heat, bad weather, traffic, no streetlights, and no place like a park to exercise. Prominent locations for current PA included schools, home, and parks. Common PA options for children were exercise equipment, running, playing, and sports. Environmental assessments identified exercise equipment (bicycles/tricycles, balls, etc.…), paved/good streets, yard/patio space, and social norms as the most frequent household or neighborhood resources within these colonias. Differences in PA barriers, options, and environmental resources for genders, birth countries, and BMI categories were detected.

Conclusions

This study suggests that PA environmental resources, barriers, and opportunities for colonias children are similar to previous studies and distinctively unique. As expected, built resources in these communities are limited and barriers exist; however, knowledge of PA opportunities and available PA resources within colonias households and neighborhoods offers insight to help guide future research, policy, and PA initiatives.

Keywords:
Mexican-origin children, physical activity, colonias; promotora-researchers, environmental support.