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Creciendo en Salud: Systems Change to Support Physical Activity among Latino Youth in a Rural Community through Grassroots and Inter-governmental Collaboration
Presentation at the 2013 Active Living Research Annual Conference.
Background and Purpose
Creciendo en Salud, a childhood obesity prevention initiative, seeks to improve the health status of children and youth at highest risk for obesity in Benton County Oregon, primarily low-income children, Latinos, and children of seasonal farm workers living in rural and semi-rural areas. Results from an in-depth community needs assessment, suggested that Latino families and children participated in local recreation programs less frequently and experienced many barriers to accessing programs and services that support physical activity, such as parks and recreational facilities.The Benton County Health Department (BCHD) and Corvallis Parks and Recreation Department (CPRD) formed the Creciendo en Salud partnership to address policy, environmental and social barriers that discourage physical activity for low income and Latino families. Creciendo en Salud increases engagement of community leaders from low income, rural, and Latino communities in health policy decision making and program development. This includes: 1) Engaging families in public policy leadership and capacity building activities; 2) Delineating roles and strengthening relationships among local government entities, working on comprehensive city and county planning, public health, and quality of life issues in the community ; and 3) Advancing local level strategies that will facilitate adoption of policies that improve the built environment which provide a venue for active living and lifestyle in low-income neighborhoods and rural communities.
The Creciendo en Salud partnership is based on family-centered collaborations with parents and children, as well as interagency collaboration with key stakeholders providing services and support to the community. Community mobilization and collaboration has provided energy, trust and resources to make changes to policies, practices, programs and services that influence physical activity.for example, a Policy Specialist at BCHD works on policy strategies that are evidence based in combating childhood obesity through a co-placement at both BCHD and CRPD. This creates a systems change by promoting collaboration across county and city government. This unique relationship has also created a portal through which Health Navigators pass to facilitate culturally specific programs within Parks and Recreation, such as the implementation of a Spanish-language needs assessment. in addition, families and teachers from the Parent -Teacher Association at the neighborhood school actively support after-school soccer programming. Escuelita de Fútbol started as a small program serving approximately 20-30 youth on Saturday mornings by the PTA. Through collaboration with Creciendo en Salud, the program now serves more than 100 youth after school and on Saturdays. The PTA continues to be actively involved in the planning and implementation of the program, while CPRD has taken over most of the administration of the program. Efforts such as these inform the development of more specific, targeted programming and increase visibility within particularly underserved neighborhoods and communities. Policy, systems, and program successes to date include increased after-school programming located within the neighborhood that is linguistically and culturally appropriate, adapting enrollment practices for all City Parks and Recreation programming, securing funding through the Oregon State Parks, Local Share Funds to renovate Tunison Park in South Corvallis, developing a City of Corvallis Community Garden Master Plan, and redesigning the Corvallis Parks & Recreation Department’s Financial Assistance Program to improve access to low income, minority families. in addition, families are participating in the Parks Facilities Master Planning process for the first time by sharing their experiences in the first City sponsored forum in Spanish.
Inter-Governmental and family- centered collaboration has increased the capacity of the partnership to serve the physical activity and health needs of Latino families. Corvallis Parks and Recreation has seen an increase in the number of Latino children participating in programming from 50 in 2010 to over 200 in 2012, an increase in the utilization of Family Assistance from 15% to 32% within 2 years and an increase in the number of classes that are offered in Spanish. Working in partnership with families and other agency requires a commitment to open communication and investing the time necessary to develop relationships and work together. in addition, it has lead to changes in organizational systems in order to better facilitate collaboration.
Conclusions and Implications
Multi-sector partnerships that are family centered can lead to improved opportunities for physical activity. These efforts are leading to significant community health status changes as more low income and Latino families are engaged in physical activity programs, community park redesign and local policy processes which support healthy behaviors. Furthermore, efforts from the Creciendo en Salud partnership are striving promote healthy and safe neighborhoods and reduce health disparities within low income and Latino communities.
The Creciendo en Salud partnership is continuing to foster relationships and promote civic engagement in policies and programs that foster physical activity, active transportation and healthy eating. This fall we will conduct a process and outcome evaluation on the Escuelita de Futbol program which will inform future programming at additional schools serving Latino youth in the county.
Support / Funding Source
Financial support has been received from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities initiative and the We Can! Program of the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.