New Program Brief Encourages Trail Use for Latino and Black Youth

Taking a walk or hike can be a great way to get outside and get in some physical activity.

But what if your community doesn’t have access to hiking trails?

The National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR) created a resource that identifies hiking and walking programs that encourage youth from underserved communities to get outside and hit the trails.

The program brief looks specifically at Latino and Black youth, because they are more likely to experience health disparities related to lack of physical activity and are at risk for health complications later in life.

What’s in the Program Brief?

NCCOR identifies nine programs that successfully reach diverse groups and produce positive health outcomes.

The programs meet the following criteria: highlighted on the internet or in government reports or conferences, ongoing and U.S. based, focused on youth younger than 18 from diverse racial/ethnic groups and/or of low-income status, includes pedestrian or bicycle trail use, show evidence of their effectiveness, and include data on health-related outcomes.

The nine programs are the following:

NCCOR chose these nine programs because of their extensive reach and scalability in the U.S., their focus on serving marginalized groups, and the data they’ve collected from participants citing a positive impact.

The coalition hopes that these programs and data collected can serve as a resource for future programs focused on access to trails and outdoor spaces. This program brief emphasizes access to trails because it can help promote physical activity.

“Research suggests access to recreational trails and transportation systems (pedestrian, bicycling, and public transit) combined with physical activity-friendly destinations can increase physical activity participation, however a vastly understudied area is the impact of trails on the physical activity behaviors of youth from under-resourced communities,” according to the NCCOR program brief.

How Are Latinos Affected?

Increasing access to outdoor spaces like hiking trails and promoting physical activity is important for everyone, but especially for Latino children who are at high risk for developing obesity, diabetes, and other conditions.

According to RWJF’s 2019 State of Childhood Obesity report:

  • Overall, Latino children ages 2-19 had the highest obesity rates (25.8%) among all racial/ethnic groups.
  • Latino children ages 2-4 in the WIC program had higher obesity (16.4%) than all groups, except American Indian/Alaska Natives (18.5%).
  • Latino children in high school tied with Black children for the highest obesity rates among groups (18.2%).

Children with obesity are at greater risk of developing serious conditions, like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. Obesity also increases the risk of developing a severe case of COVID-19.

This is why NCCOR wanted to focus on providing access to Latino and Black children.

“Children who are from under-resourced communities and diverse racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds are less likely to meet the minimal national standards for physical activity and more likely to suffer from negative health effects related to a lack of physical activity. Because of the personal, social, and built-environment limitations on under-resourced communities, African American and Hispanic youth have substantially higher levels of overweight and obesity compared to their Caucasian counterparts, placing racial/ethnic minority populations at a greater risk of health complications later in life,” according to the NCCOR program brief.

With more hiking programs like the ones NCCOR has highlighted, we can help fight health disparities and bring equity to outdoor spaces.

How Else Can We Help?

Getting kids from underserved communities outside and on hiking trails is important.

But many barriers continue to affect the health of Latinos and other people of color.

Has your city identified racism as a public health crisis?

Systemic racism makes it harder for Latinos and other people of color to get healthcare, housing, transportation, education, employment, and more, which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19.

Our team at Salud America! built an Action Pack, “Get Your City to Declare Racism a Public Health Crisis Action Pack” to help anyone get input from local social justice groups and advocates of color, and start a conversation with city leaders for a resolution to declare racism a public health issue along with a commitment to take action to change policies and practices. It will also help build local support.


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