Children's perception of the neighborhood environment is associated with higher levels of physical activity in Hispanic children

Dec 21, 2020

Only four in ten US children engage in the recommended amount of physical activity on a weekly basis, making a lack of physical activity among children a serious public health concern. Researchers at the University of Michigan, Batelle Memorial Institute, and Nutrition Policy Institute studied the relationship between the perceived quality of the neighborhood social environment and children's physical activity levels in non-Hispanic white children and Hispanic children. The study included 2,749 children in 130 communities across the US as part of the Healthy Communities Study, a project funded by the National Institutes of Health designed to examine community impacts on child obesity. Child physical activity levels were self-reported by the child or parent and the child's perception of their neighborhood social environment was captured with four questions: “It is safe to walk or jog in the neighborhood during the day,” “There is so much traffic that it makes it hard to walk in the neighborhood,” “There is a lot of crime in the neighborhood,” and “There are lots of loose or scary dogs in the neighborhood”. Researchers found that Hispanic children engaged in more physical activity when their perception of the quality of their neighborhood social environment was better, but this association was not found in non-Hispanic white children. These findings suggest that policymakers should focus on improving the quality of neighborhood social environments where Hispanic children live to support improved physical activity. The study was published online in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Study co-authors include Yeonwoo Kim of the University of Texas, Lorrene Ritchie of the Nutrition Policy Institute, Andrew Landgraf of the Battelle Memorial Institute, and Rebecca Hasson and Natalie Colabianchi of the University of Michigan.

By Danielle L. Lee
Author - Policy Analyst