Improving Urban Minority Girls’ Health Via Community Summer Programming


Summertime has emerged as a high-risk period for weight gain among low-income minority youth who often experience a lack of resources when not attending school. Structured programming may be an effective means of reducing risk for obesity by improving obesogenic behaviors among these youth. The current multi-method study examined sedentary time, physical activity, and dietary intake among low-income urban minority girls in two contexts: an unstructured summertime setting and in the context of a structured 4-week community-based summer day camp program promoting physical activity. Data were analyzed using paired-sample t tests and repeated-measure analyses of variance with significance at the p < .05 level. Results evidenced no significant differences in total calories and fat consumed between the unstructured and structured settings. Participants exhibited significant increases in fruit consumption and physical activity and significant decreases in sedentary time of over 2 h/day and dairy consumption when engaged in structured summer programming. All improvements were independent of weight status and age, and African-American participants evidenced greater changes in physical activity during programming. The study concludes that structured, community-based summertime programming may be associated with fewer obesogenic behaviors in low-income urban youth and may be a powerful tool to address disparities in weight gain and obesity among high-risk samples.

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We would like to thank the leaders and staff at the Girls in the Game program and the research assistants in the Activity Matters Lab for their help with data collection. We especially would like to acknowledge and thank the adolescents and their families who participated in the project and took the time to share their perspectives with us.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Carolyn R. Bates.

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All procedures performed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Loyola University Chicago Institutional Review Board and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all participants in the study.

Conflicts of Interest

All authors declare that they have no competing conflicts of interest.

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Bohnert, A.M., Bates, C.R., Heard, A.M. et al. Improving Urban Minority Girls’ Health Via Community Summer Programming. J. Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities 4, 1237–1245 (2017).

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  • Race/ethnicity
  • Adolescent
  • Health behavior
  • Obesity
  • Physical activity
  • Dietary intake
  • Summer