More Houston Kids Walk to School

Houston's inner city children walk or bike to school more than the average kid. A new study out of the Texas Medical Center shows urban students who are at the most risk for obesity are also the most likely to get more physical activity going to school. Laurie Johnson reports.

The research focused on low-income, mostly minority, students at eight elementary schools in HISD.

Dr. Jason Mendoza, a pediatrician and assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine, conducted the study. He says it shows these students have a much higher rate of walking to school than the average kid.

"About 13 percent of kids nationally walk or bike to school on a regular basis. But in our sample, and we had mostly Latino and non-Latino African-American students in the study, over the course of a week 43 percent of their trips to school were made by walking."

There are a number of reasons why Houston students walk more — many urban schools are nearby in the neighborhood. And they may have more difficulty getting transportation.

"Low-income families may have less resources to devote to getting their kids to school by car. So they might have less cars, there might be more single-parent families or the parents might just hold more jobs or their jobs might overlap with the periods when the kids need to get to and from school."

Mendoza says these are the students who are most at risk for childhood obesity, so the good news is they also have the best chance of getting physical activity through walking or biking.

However, an alarming number of them didn't follow safety precautions, with less than three percent looking both ways before crossing the street.

Mendoza hopes his research will help parents and school officials make walking to school easier and safer. He plans to expand his research to include more students of all income levels in HISD over the next two to three years.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...