The Built Environment, Walking, and Physical Activity: A Comparison between Korean Immigrants and Caucasian Women in King County, WA
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The number of immigrants is continuously increasing in the U.S., and their rapid weight gain over time since entering this country has become a serious health concern. Immigrant and ethnic minority women have been shown to be a physically inactive group compared to non-immigrant and non-Hispanic white women. However, the findings were based on self-reported physical activity (PA) measures and did not consider all types of PA. Studies on park use have found that ethnic minorities were observed to be more sedentary at public parks than white park users, but these were not adjusted for important covariates such as socio-economic status. By comparing Korean immigrant women and Caucasian women, differences in PA and park use behaviors between the two ethnic women groups were investigated. In addition, previous studies on the effect of acculturation on PA by immigrants have shown mixed findings, and the effect of acculturation on PA is still unclear. To explore the association between acculturation and obesity-related behaviors, Korean immigrant women's behaviors were examined. In this study, the intensity and the location of the activity were assessed by accelerometer for every 30-second epoch and with GPS devices at 30-second intervals during waking time for seven consecutive days. The participants were also asked to complete a seven-day travel diary and a questionnaire. A convenience sample of 60 Korean immigrant women and a matching sample of 69 Caucasian women in the Seattle metropolitan area showed that Caucasian women overall are more active than Korean women; they engage in more minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and of walking per day on average. Multivariate models demonstrate that there is an independent effect of race per se on physical activity among women. Regarding park behaviors, adjusted estimates indicate no racial effect on park visitation and on MVPA at parks. The differences in park-based MVPA were explained by other factors that had not been controlled in previous studies, such as perceived barriers to PA. Acculturation is negatively associated with Korean immigrant women's walking, but has null association with MVPA at parks and driving time. Their travel behavior already seems to be assimilated to that of typical Americans, but their walking has not increased to the level of their Caucasian counterparts commensurate with their acculturation. Some immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for a long time might nevertheless interact infrequently with the mainstream culture, and they are therefore less likely to assimilate to the mainstream. This study serves as a pilot to examine behavioral patterns of Korean immigrant and Caucasian women. MVPA, walking, park use, and driving behaviors can explain important aspects of their lifestyles. If expanded, its interdisciplinary framework between urban planning and public health could contribute to policy formation to promote active living and healthy communities for minorities, immigrants, and for all groups of the population. Further studies are needed in order to produce tailored approaches for minority and immigrant populations.
- Urban planning