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Dietary and physical activity patterns of Latino farmworker children

 Principal Investigator:  Sara A. Quandt, PhD


Overweight and obesity is prevalent among farmworker children, the vast majority of whom are Latino of Mexican descent.  Unfortunately, there has been little systematic research focused on the primary determinants of childhood overweight – physical activity and diet – among farmworker children, consequently there is a limited empirical foundation for building culturally and contextually appropriate intervention strategies for preventing or treating childhood overweight and obesity in this health disparate and medically underserved population.  The physical activity and dietary patterns of Latino farmworker children is fundamentally a work-family issue.  The nature of farmwork and the farmworker lifestyle poses significant barriers to healthy lifestyle habits among children, and it manifests in elevated obesity in a group of children already at risk for poor health and developmental outcomes.  

The goal of this research project is strengthen the empirical foundation upon which to build diet and physical activity intervention programs to address overweight and obesity among young Latino farmworker children.  To achieve this goal, we build on a long-standing academic community partnership focused on farmworker family health to: 1) document the dietary and physical activity patterns of young (3 year-old) children of farmworker families; 2) determine the child, familial, community, and cultural factors that contribute to obesigenic dietary and physical activity behavior; and 3) identify culturally and contextually appropriate strategies for improving dietary and physical activity patterns of Latino farmworker children.

The proposed project’s specific aims will be accomplished using separate project components based in both qualitative and quantitative techniques.   The qualitative project component involves in-depth personal interviews with mothers of farmworker children (n=30) to develop a comprehensive understanding of the beliefs farmworker families have about children’s weight and obesity, and the factors shaping children’s diet and physical activity patterns.  Results of this project component will be useful in identifying the concrete factors that shape children’s eating and physical activity patterns, and they will inform the content of the second project component.  The second project component involves quantitative assessment of farmworker children’s dietary and physical activity patterns.  A representative sample of mother-child dyads (n=250) will be recruited using a site-based sampling strategy and assessed every three months over a two year period.  Data collection includes 24 hour dietary recalls, use of accelerometers for collecting objective assessments of children’s physical activity, and maternal interviews.  The results of this project component will provide robust descriptions of children’s dietary and physical activity behavior.  They will also be useful for intervention development by targeting particularly at-risk children, identifying specific factors that should be addressed in an effective intervention, and discerning ideal time periods for implementing interventions.

Key Publications:

Grzywacz JG, Arcury TA, Trejo G, Quandt SA. Latino Mothers in Farmworker Families' Beliefs About Preschool Children's Physical Activity and Play. J Immigr Minor Health. 2014 Feb 13.[Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID:24522435.

Quick Reference

Center for Worker Health
Thomas A. Arcury, PhD

Phone: 336-716-9438
Fax: 336-716-3206
Toll Free: 877-223-8651


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