The effectiveness of community information sessions between researchers and local lawmakers to affect policy development related to childhood obesity was the focus of a recent study by a researcher at the Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC) School of Rural Public Health.
“Bridging Research and Policy to Address Childhood Obesity Among Border Hispanics” by Nelda Mier, Ph.D., associate professor of health promotion and community health sciences at the school’s McAllen campus, is among several in a collection of studies from Salud America! The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Network to Prevent Obesity Among Latino Children, published in a supplement to the March issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The supplement focuses on Salud America! achievements in the past five years and features 19 papers on effective approaches for preventing/controlling Latino childhood obesity.
“Mexican-American children are disproportionately affected by obesity compared to other population groups,” Dr. Mier said. “This study responds to a gap in the public health literature underlining the need for obesity-related research that is better aligned with policy and practice.”
Access to proper recreational facilities and increased dissemination of health education to families are essential for these children to meet national physical activity recommendations. This study emphasized the importance of communication between researchers and policymakers as the key to achieving those goals.
The study – consisting of public meetings, completed questionnaires and proposed policy recommendations that reflect the needs determined by the research – successfully defined four key strategies: establishing sustainable community-based health programs; improving neighborhood infrastructure and safety; increasing access to parks; and supporting community organizations to disseminate health education to parents and children.
Additional contributors to the study include Matthew Lee Smith, Ph.D., M.P.H., CHES; David Irizarry, B.S.; Genny Carrillo-Zuniga, M.D., M.P.H., Sc.D.; Chanam Lee, Ph.D.; Laura Trevino, M.E., M.P.H.; and Marcia G. Ory, Ph.D.