Collaborative guidebook helps improve health of Hispanic populations

Published on November 22, 2012 at 2:57 AM · No Comments

A collaborative guidebook involving Kansas State University researchers is helping individuals, families and communities improve the health of Hispanic populations.

Recent studies have shown that Hispanic populations living in the U.S. have higher rates of obesity and diabetes, and lower rates of physical activity and fruit and vegetable consumption, compared with Caucasians. The higher rates of obesity and diabetes among Hispanic populations are connected with the adoption of new lifestyles.

University researchers wanted to improve Hispanic health and health-related behaviors by developing a culturally relevant resource guide for physical activity and nutrition. Working with three communities in southwest Kansas -- Garden City in Finney County, Dodge City in Ford County and Liberal in Seward County -- the researchers addressed Hispanic community and health needs. The research is published in a recent issue of the journal Ethnicity and Disease.

The collaborative project involves Debra Bolton, instructor and K-State Research and Extension specialist in family and consumer sciences; Daniel Kahl, the program coordinator of the Kansas PRIDE Program and the K-State Research and Extension liaison for the Center for Engagement and Community Development; as well as Melissa Bopp and Elizabeth Fallon, both former assistant professors of kinesiology.

"Because of where I live and because of my research, the professors called and said they wanted to do research," said Bolton, who is based in Garden City and performs research centered on Hispanic populations. "It was a good place for them to get into communities and understand health and habits."

Hispanics make up 8 percent of the Kansas population, but southwest Kansas has higher populations of Hispanics. Hispanics make up 48 percent of the population in Finney County, 49 percent of the population in Ford County and 51 percent of the population in Seward County.

"We are way beyond the state average," Bolton said. "That's why southwest Kansas was such a prime place to do this research."

With obesity prevention efforts, community-based participatory research is becoming a popular way to reach ethnically diverse populations. But little research has focused on ways to help Hispanic communities. For the guidebook, the researchers combined community-specific cultural and historical information with physical activity and nutrition health education materials.

The work focused on several areas: heart disease, diabetes, overweight, nutrition, physical activity and access to health care. The researchers used surveys and statistics and spoke with community leaders.

They discovered that many Hispanic residents were new immigrants and possibly unaware of community resources that support healthy behaviors. The researchers found that it was beneficial for these residents to have a guidebook tailored to resources available in their city.

The researchers developed a guidebook available in English and Spanish and distributed it to residents in that community. The guidebook focused on ways to promote and increase awareness of physical activity and healthy eating resources in each community. The researchers included photos of parks, trails and recreational facilities, photos of families and individuals engaging in activities, and photos and nutritional information for ethnically relevant foods.

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