School-Wide Programs Aimed at Obesity Among Latino Youth in the United States: A Review of the Evidence
In the past 30 years, childhood obesity rates have tripled, disproportionately affecting Latino children. From 2003 to 2006, 43.0% of Mexican-American children were classified as overweight compared with 36.9% of non-Hispanic Whites. Obesity interventions targeting children can have a significant impact in the school setting.
We conducted a systematic review of evidence-based, obesity-related interventions in the school setting. Inclusion criteria included: having 50% or more Latino children in the study, and usage of obesity-related outcomes (eg, body mass index [BMI] z-score, weight, and waist circumference, and body fat).
The majority of identified studies included interventions that targeted both nutrition and physical activity. The most successful interventions were randomized, controlled trials or quasi-experimental controlled studies and had few limitations in execution in the study; however, overall results were mixed. There are promising results for interventions targeting Latino children who are already overweight or obese, but evidence of effectiveness is sparse.
This review is the first to gather evidence-based research systematically aimed at obesity-related interventions in the school setting that are specifically focused on Latino children. Results of the review are promising and timely, given the exigency of the needed evidence, and the current state of childhood obesity in the United States.