Parks as Social and Cultural Spaces Among U.S.- and Foreign-Born Latinas

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Abstract

Parks provide opportunities for people to engage in activities that can promote physical and emotional well-being. Using focus groups and personal interviews conducted in select neighborhoods of a Northeastern city with a high rate of obesity, we examined perceptions of barriers and facilitators regarding the use of parks and park features that would promote physical activity among Latina women (N = 39). Foreign-born Latinas emphasized the environmental characteristics of parks and the types of amenities that can support preferred cultural and social activities, while U.S.-born Latinas emphasized the use of parks for physical activity and weight management. Most striking were the different ways in which foreign-born participants conceptualized parks as sociocultural family centers, extending more common conceptualizations centered on exercise or individual health gain. These findings suggest the need for new policies that incorporate culturally specific park programming to promote national goals of increasing levels of physical activity for health.

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