Designing for multi-level behavior change: A nutrition and physical activity program for Mexican-heritage families in South Texas border communities


Fathers significantly influence family functioning, as coparents and partners, and must be part of family-based approaches to behavioral health interventions or programs. But little is known regarding how to support Latino fathers in health promotion within their family systems, specifically for Latino families living in border communities. Program development was embedded in a larger community-based grant and part of a longstanding academic-community collaboration. An interdisciplinary research team applied theories related to health behavior, family systems, behavior change, and community engagement to develop a father-focused and family-centered behavioral program for Mexican-heritage fathers and children living near the Texas-Mexico border to support changes in nutrition and physical activity at the individual and family levels. Promotoras de salud (trained community health workers) delivered the program through group sessions, check-in calls, and at-home activities. Group session activities were designed to engage family triads and dyads using experiential education related to nutrition and physical activity, like cooking lessons and active play, over a six-week period. Future research can use the program approach and curricula as a roadmap for designing context-specific and culturally-relevant programs for Latino families. Additional research is needed to explore how approaches like this can support families and their health goals.

International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health