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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: DEVELOPMENT AND PREVENTION OF CHILDHOOD OBESITY

Location: Children's Nutrition Research Center

Title: Ethnic minority children’s active commuting to school and association with physical activity and pedestrian safety behaviors

Authors
item Mendoza, Jason -
item Watson, Kathy -
item Baranowski, Tom -
item Nicklas, Theresa -
item Uscanga, Doris -
item Nguyen, Nga -
item Hanfling, Marcus -

Submitted to: Journal of Applied Research on Children: Informing Policy for Children at Risk
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: February 1, 2010
Publication Date: September 30, 2010
Citation: Mendoza, J.A., Watson, K., Baranowski, T., Nicklas, T.A., Uscanga, D.K., Nguyen, N., Hanfling, M.J. 2010. Ethnic minority children’s active commuting to school and association with physical activity and pedestrian safety behaviors. Journal of Applied Research on Children: Informing Policy for Children at Risk. 1(1):Article 4.

Interpretive Summary: Ethnic minority children have greater rates of obesity. Walking and bicycling to school (active commuting) may decrease children’s risk for obesity, but there are few studies among ethnic minority children. Through surveys and observations, we examined factors that influence ethnic minority 4th grade children’s active commuting. Walking and bicycling to school was common, although Latinos had lower rates. Parents’ attitudes and distance from home to school also influenced children’s active commuting. Programs that seek to improve children’s active commuting should address parental and cultural influences.

Technical Abstract: Children's active commuting to school, i.e. walking or cycling to school, was associated with greater moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, although studies among ethnic minorities are sparse. Among a low-income, ethnic minority sample of fourth grade students from eight public schools, we examined (1) correlates of active commuting to school and (2) the relationship between active commuting to school and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. We conducted a cross-sectional analysis of baseline measurements from a sample of participants (n=149) aged 9-12 years from a walk to school intervention study in Houston, Texas. The primary outcome was the weekly rate of active commuting to school. Daily moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, measured by accelerometers, was a secondary outcome. Child self-efficacy (alpha=0.75), parent self-efficacy (alpha=0.88), and parent outcome expectations (alpha=0.78) were independent variables. Participant characteristics (age, gender, race/ethnicity, distance from home to school, acculturation, and BMI percentile) were independent sociodemographic variables. We used mixed-model regression analyses to account for clustering by school and a stepwise procedure with backward elimination of non-significant interactions and covariates to identify significant moderators and predictors. School-level observations of student pedestrians were assessed and compared using chi-square tests of independence. Among our sample, which was 61.7% Latino, the overall rate of active commuting to school was 43%. In the mixed model for active commuting to school, parent self-efficacy (std. beta = 0.18, p=0.018) and age (std. beta = 0.18, p=0.018) were positively related. Latino students had lower rates of active commuting to school than non-Latinos (16.5%, p=0.040). Distance from home to school was inversely related to active commuting to school (std. beta = 0.29, p<0.001). In the mixed model for moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, active commuting to school was positively associated (std. beta = 0.31, p <0.001). Among the Latino subsample, child acculturation was negatively associated with active commuting to school (std. beta = -0.23, p=0.01). With regard to school-level pedestrian safety observations, 37% of students stopped at the curb and 2.6% looked left-right-left before crossing the street. Although still below national goals, the rate of active commuting was relatively high, while the rate of some pedestrian safety behaviors was low among this low-income, ethnic minority population. Programs and policies to encourage safe active commuting to school are warranted and should consider the influence of parents, acculturation, and ethnicity.

Last Modified: 9/10/2014