Let’s Get Physical
PROFESSOR DIRECTS STUDY ON PHYSICAL EDUCATION POLICY IN PUERTO RICAN MIDDLE- AND HIGH SCHOOLS
in 30 sports at TU
in June during the
agers have a lot
till noon, most
are content to
while away the
saturated fat and
video games. So
it should come as
no surprise that
at least 155 mil-
children worldwide are overweight or obese, according to
the International Obesity TaskForce.
That percentage is even higher in Puerto Rico, where
Alexander Vigo-Valentin, Ph.D.
and facilities, and collected the evidence he believes will
open the eyes of national policymakers.
“Once we have the behavioral data and know exactly
what is going on in the schools, we can attempt to create
informed policy that will change student behavior and
improve the school environment,” he explains.
Titled “Physical Activity Policies and Opportunity for
Hispanic Adolescents,” his study is the first of its kind in
Puerto Rico, and will comprise direct interviews with school
administrators, surveys of physical educators and a comprehensive analysis of school facilities, inside and out.
“We want to see if the environment—both in the
school and around it—motivates students to be more
physically active. There are no laws in Puerto Rico, like
here in Maryland, that compel schools to provide space for
physical education. Our research will focus on environment
and laws, and how we can use them to provide safe, open,
clean places for our children to play.
“There are no laws in Puerto Rico, like here in Maryland,
that compel schools to provide space for physical education.”
Alexander Vigo-Valentín, Ph.D., was born and raised.
“Eighty percent of the adolescents in Puerto Rico don’t
meet physical activity recommendations” he explains.
“That is huge.”
Now an assistant professor of kinesiology at Towson
University, Vigo-Valentín knows healthy behavioral habits
in students can be taught in school, and last summer he
led a study to prove it.
Armed with a team of four researchers and a grant
of more than $71,000 from the Robert Wood Johnson
Foundation, Vigo-Valentín traveled to Puerto Rico and,
over the course of two weeks, evaluated school policies
“And this policy has to go beyond school borders
into the home,” he continues. “We can’t just target bad
behavior; we have to increase knowledge and teach
adolescents how to be healthy on their own, not just
in gym class.”
While journal publication would be a happy benefit,
Vigo-Valentín’s main priority is helping the children. “The
most important thing for us will be to send the information
we collect to the people of Puerto Rico and get started
right away, because it is going to take time.”
Making a difference often does.