2010 - Research

A Pilot Walking School Bus Program to Prevent Obesity in Hispanic Elementary School Children

The Role of Physician Involvement with the School Community

The University of New Mexico School-Based Health Center (UNM SBHC) collaborated with the school and community to test the feasibility of a modified Walking School Bus (WSB) program as a strategy to prevent obesity among the elementary school students.

  • Kindergarten through fifth-grade students were recruited through classroom presentations by an SBHC physician to 2 WSBs that ran sequentially from March to May 2006 for 10 weeks. Students residing within 1 mile of the school were eligible.
  • Participants walked on designated routes with pick-up and drop-off locations approved for safety by the police department.
  • Four health themes were emphasized during the walks by a premedical student fluent in Spanish and 2 medical students, one of whom was fluent in Spanish: (a) get up and play, (b) turn off your television, (c) eat 5 servings of fruit/vegetables per day, and (d) reduce soda/juice intake.
  • Seventy-six percent of students enrolled walked an average of 3 or more times per week. BMI percentile remained stable among participants both overweight and not overweight. Physical activity increased from a mean of 4.3 days/week to 5.3 days/week (P = .08), and fruit serving consumption nearly doubled (P = .01) according to pre/post surveys (Table 1). Vegetable intake more than doubled by 24-hour diet recalls (P < .001). There were no significant changes in television viewing time and soda/juice intake.
  • The WSB appeared quite suitable to one of the poorest areas of town, with only 3 students dropping out.
  • Pilot WSB findings of BMI percentile maintenance in growing students coupled with obesity reduction behavior changes are encouraging.

Kong, Alberta S., Burks, Nichole, Conklin, Cristina, Roldan, Carlos, Skipper, Betty, Scott, Susan, Sussman, Andrew L., and Leggott, John. “A Pilot Walking School Bus Program to Prevent Obesity in Hispanic Elementary School Children: Role of Physician Involvement with the School Community.” Clinical Pediatrics. 49.10 (2010): 989-991.