A cross-sectional analysis of physical activity and obesity in inner city Houston Texas Mexican American youth

Jerry M Richards, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Obesity prevalence among children and adolescents is rising. It is one of the most attributable causes of hospitalization and death. Overweight and obese children are more likely to suffer from associated conditions such as hypertension, dyslipidemia, chronic inflammation, increased blood clotting tendency, endothelial dysfunction, hyperinsulinemia, and asthma. These children and adolescents are also more likely to be overweight and obese in adulthood. Interestingly, rates of obesity and overweight are not evenly distributed across racial and ethnic groups. Mexican American youth have higher rates of obesity and are at higher risk of becoming obese than non-Hispanic black and non-Hispanic white children. Methods. This cross-sectional study describes the association between rates of obesity and physical activity in a sample of 1313 inner-city Mexican American children and adolescents (5-19 years of age) in Houston, Texas. This study is important because it will contribute to our understanding of childhood and adolescent obesity in this at-risk population. Data from the Mexican American Feasibility Cohort using the Mano a Mano questionnaire are used to describe this population's status of obesity and physical activity. An initial sample taken from 5000 households in inner city Houston Texas was used as the baseline for this prospective cohort. The questionnaire was given in person to the participants to complete (or to parents for younger children) at a home visit by two specially trained bilingual interviewers. Analysis comprised prevalence estimates of obesity represented as percentile rank (<85%= normal weight, >85%= at risk, >95%= obese) by age and gender. The association between light, moderate, strenuous activity, and obesity was also examined using linear regression. Results. Overall, 46% of this Mexican American Feasibility cohort is overweight or obese. The prevalence for children in the 6-11 age range (53.2%) was significantly greater than that reported from NHANES, 1999–2002 data (39.4%). Although the percentage of overweight and obese among the 12-19 year olds was greater than that reported in NHANES (38.5% versus 38.6%) this difference was not statistically significant. A significant association between BMI and sit time and moderate physical activity (both p < 0.05) found in this sample. For males, this association was significant for moderate physical activity (p < 0.01). For the females, this association was significant for BMI and sit time (p < 0.05). These results need to be interpreted in the light of design and measurement limitations. Conclusion. This study supports observations that the inner city Houston Texas Mexican American child and adolescent population is more overweight and obese than nationally reported figures, and that there are positive relationships between BMI, activity levels, and sit time in this population. This study supports the need for public health initiatives within the Houston Hispanic community.

Subject Area

Public health|Hispanic Americans

Recommended Citation

Richards, Jerry M, "A cross-sectional analysis of physical activity and obesity in inner city Houston Texas Mexican American youth" (2007). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1447195.