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Research Project: Childhood Obesity Prevention

Location: Children's Nutrition Research Center

Title: Companeros: High school students mentor middle school students to address obesity among Hispanic adolescents

item ARLINGHAUS, KATHERINE - University Of Houston
item MORENO, JENNETTE - Children'S Nutrition Research Center (CNRC)
item REESOR, LAYTON - University Of Houston
item HERNANDEZ, DAPHNE - University Of Houston
item JOHNSTON, CRAIG - University Of Houston

Submitted to: Preventing Chronic Disease
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/1/2017
Publication Date: 10/1/2017
Citation: Arlinghaus, K.R., Moreno, J.P., Reesor, L., Hernandez, D.C., Johnston, C.A. 2017. Companeros: High school students mentor middle school students to address obesity among Hispanic adolescents. Preventing Chronic Disease. 14(e92).

Interpretive Summary: This study utilized an existing public health model (Hispanic community health workers) and other existing health behavior approaches (peer health mentors) to engage Hispanic middle school students in a school-based obesity intervention. Specifically, high school students were trained as health mentors to take part in an obesity program targeting low-income Hispanic middle school students. Results showed that middle school students that were assigned to the program with high school health mentors had a larger decrease in standardized body mass index when compared to middle school students that participated in the program without mentors. More research is needed in this area. However, considering the effectiveness of high school health mentors demonstrated in this study and the minimal extra resources needed to support them, this model warrants further investigation as a possible strategy for addressing practical concerns schools face when implementing health initiatives.

Technical Abstract: Promotoras, Hispanic community health workers, are frequently employed to promote health behavioral change with culturally bound Hispanic lifestyle behaviors. Peer health mentors have been used in schools to promote healthy nutrition and physical activity behaviors among students. This study investigates the efficacy of combining these 2 approaches by training high school health mentors, called companeros, to engage Hispanic middle school students in a school-based obesity intervention as a strategy to promote and sustain reductions in standardized body mass index (zBMI). High school companeros were trained to participate in a 6-month obesity program alongside middle school students in Houston, Texas. Middle school students were randomized to participate in the program either with companeros (n = 94) or without companeros (n = 95). The intervention was conducted from 2013 through 2016 in 3 cohorts of students, 1 each school year. Students were followed for 12 months. The primary outcome was zBMI, which was analyzed at baseline, 6 months, and 12 months. Significant differences were found between conditions across time (F = 4.58, P = .01). After the 6-month intervention, students in the condition with companeros had a larger decrease in zBMI (F = 6.94, P = .01) than students in the condition without companeros. Furthermore, students who received the intervention with companeros showed greater sustained results at 12 months (F = 7.65, P = .01). Using high school companeros in an obesity intervention for Hispanic middle school students could be effective in promoting and maintaining reductions in zBMI.