Combating Disparities in Leisure Time Physical Activity in Underserved Children through Community-Academic Partnerships and a Comprehensive School-Based Program

Engaging in regular physical activity is widely accepted as an effective preventative measure for a variety of obesity-related chronic diseases including diabetes, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease. Disparities exist where racial/ethnic minority and low-income children do not meet these recommendations. Rather, they are spending the majority of their leisure time engaging in sedentary activities (e.g. using the computer, playing video games or watching television). The school years are known to be a key stage in the life course for shaping attitudes and behaviors. While school-aged children are ultimately dependent upon their parents, they also look to schools for education regarding physical activity. Therefore, schools, through the provision of culturally and developmentally appropriate healthy lifestyle programs, have the power to decrease sedentary behaviors, especially for underserved children where disparities in obesity-related outcomes exist. Through a partnership with a university and several community schools, the present randomized controlled trial study utilized a community-based participatory research approach to evaluate the impact of environmental changes and a culturally sensitive, school-based, family-centered lifestyle program, called Kids N Fitness©, on body mass index and leisure time physical activity, including: TV viewing and computer game playing, among underserved children ages 7-12 (N = 251) in Los Angeles County.