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October 13, 2011

UMBC Researchers Study Obesity Risk Factors among Latino Children

Contact: Dinah Winnick
Communications Manager
University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC)
410-455-8117
dwinnick@umbc.edu

Latino children are more likely to be obese than their African American, Asian and white peers, and these disparities increase with age, suggests new research from Claudia Galindo, Sergio Prada, Judith Shinogle and Adele Kirk of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) [see full pdf]. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Salud America! has published preliminary results from the study, which tracked 2,100 Latino children from kindergarten to fifth grade. The research considers country/region of origin and socioeconomic (SES) status in exploring obesity risk factors among the participants.

The researchers found that children of Central American, Puerto Rican and Mexican descent have higher rates of obesity than those of Cuban and South American origin. Children in the former group also experience higher rates of obesity over time, with the proportion of Central American children described as obese increasing from 21 percent in kindergarten to 32 percent by fifth grade. The researchers note that differences in the prevalence of obesity across Latino sub-groups are “masked if Latino children are considered one pan-ethnic group, which is a common practice in research.”

In the broader Latino group, rates of obesity among children decrease as their SES increases, although all SES groups experience an increase in obesity over time. Obesity is most frequent among Latino children experiencing high poverty levels.

Future research will further examine how sex, country of origin, SES, generational status, parental behaviors and school factors influence weight among Latino children. The researchers’ ultimate goal it to “help develop policies and interventions targeted at specific Latino sub-groups during early school years.”

The Salud America! pilot project “Young Latino Children’s Weight Changes: Examination of Individual, Family and School Factors” is led by Claudia Galindo, assistant professor of language, literacy and culture at UMBC. The research team also includes Sergio Prada, UMBC Ph.D. alumnus in public policy, now with IMPAQ International; Judith Shinogle, senior research scientist with UMBC's Maryland Institute for Policy Research and Analysis; and Adele Kirk, assistant professor of public policy at UMBC.

Posted by dwinnick at October 13, 2011 3:21 PM