Kinesiology Professors Investigate Latino Health in Southwest Kansas
by Jenny Barnes
The largest and fastest growing ethnic minority in the United States is the Hispanic/Latino population. In Kansas, they make up about eight percent of the total population of the state with the majority living in southwest Kansas.
Kansas Latino adults tend to be more overweight and obese compared to the national average. This leads to diabetes and other health problems for the Latino communities. In an attempt to understand and help this issue, two professors in the kinesiology department at Kansas State University, Elizabeth Fallon and Melissa Bopp, developed the project, "Community-based Participatory Research for Obesity Prevention and Management in Rural Kansas Latinos."
After receiving a grant from CECD, the two professors began their approach. Their main goals were to engage community members in southwest Kansas in obesity prevention and Latino health, and to educate students on the Community Based Participatory Model of doing research.
Bopp and Fallon targeted three of the larger communities in the area with significant Latino populations: Liberal, Garden City and Dodge City. They made contact with extension offices in Ford, Seward and Finney County in order to get started.
"The extension offices were our initial contacts in the communities," Bopp said. "They were the most helpful individuals to help us navigate."
As a result of the research done in these areas, Bopp and Fallon created physical activity and nutrition resource guides tailored to the specific needs and services in each community. The bilingual guides contain information on foods to eat and where to get them, parks and recreation facilities in the area, maps, and even a highlight on a unique component in the community like the International Pancake Day festivities in Liberal.
Approximately 800 guides were delivered to community leaders and health departments. They are intended to be informational tools that will also be available in electronic form to communities for modification as things change.
Fallon and Bopp both commented that the communities were receptive to their research.
"It is important to have community support and buy in," Fallon said. "Then it's just people filling in a piece of the pie."
The next steps of the project are to compile information gathered from community leaders to develop a report and programs appropriate for the diverse populations.