Findings released today by The Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, Inc. indicate that community-based approaches to reducing the rate of obesity among Latino families can be effective.
Showing positive results, the organization’s Healthy Living Program, funded by Empire BlueCross BlueShield Foundation and Unilever United States Foundation, offered a free culturally-based nutrition and fitness program to families in the Central Bronx, where 60 percent of adults are overweight or obese (NYC Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene). In addition, Bronx residents are approximately 85 percent more likely to be obese than Manhattan residents (New York Times, March 14, 2010).
Designed to combat obesity, a major problem for Latinos, and show families that eating healthy foods and engaging in physical activity can be enjoyable and can fit in their lifestyles, the Healthy Living Summer Program works with whole families, creating opportunities for families to bond and strengthen relationships, while also creating a shared understanding of nutrition and fitness in the family that will reinforce healthy choices. In addition, this program also provides an opportunity for participants to meet and connect with other community members, giving them support that lasts beyond the program period.
Participants from the community were enrolled in the program throughout the summer and engaged in a variety of activities, including nutrition instruction, fitness instruction, walks in a local park and a periodic weight check. Some participants indicated that exercise and nutrition were not a part of their lives when they began the program.
Weight loss: Of the 30 participants who were weighed at the beginning and end of the program, 80 percent lost weight.
An increase in the number of steps participants took each day/week: Participant median for daily steps increased from 7,642 to 10,466
An increase in the number of minutes that participants spent exercising outside of the program: At the beginning of the program participants reported exercising and average of 305.38 minutes a week outside of program time. At the end of the program that number had increased to 731.59 minutes.
“Programs like our Healthy Living Program provide our Latino community with the information they need to work together as a family to build a healthy lifestyle, while not only respecting their cultures and traditions, but building upon them,” said Elba Montalvo, Executive Director of The Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, Inc.
“Empire is proud to be able to support a program that successfully promotes healthy lifestyles in a community that is responsive to such opportunities,” added Mark Wagar, President and CEO, Empire BlueCross BlueShield. “Participants have spread the word about what they have learned and how much they enjoyed themselves. As a result, generation of families, and families and friends, still gather to focus on improving their health. Now that we know these modest behavior changes have such a striking impact, Empire will look to work with CHCF and more community organizations, physicians and health providers to get thousands – instead of just dozens – involved.“
Key components of the program were pre-tests, post-tests, weight checks and a focus group. During the focus group, conducted in Spanish and English, participants spoke about how important the program was to them in terms of the ability to walk more; getting out of the house; making friends; learning about healthy foods, healthy cooking and correct portions; becoming more mindful of food choices; and, providing a space for physical activity. They also spoke of a long lasting change caused by the program. At the time of the focus group, after the program’s end, participants were still meeting at the Recreation Center to walk together.
The Healthy Living Program used the culturally-based curriculum, Salsa, Sabor y Salud, to teach healthy lifestyle habits to Latino families by using cultural traditions and values. Games, music, and discussion are incorporated, as are traditional foods and seasonings and dances, such as Salsa.
About The Committee For Hispanic Children And Families, Inc.
Since 1982, The Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, Inc. (CHCF) has been dedicated to improving the quality of life for Latino children and their families. Believing that the most effective way to serve Latino families is by building upon their existing strengths and fostering self-sufficiency, CHCF provides a number of services to the community in the areas of Youth Development, Early Care & Education, and Family Health Education. Grounded in its direct services, CHCF is active on the local, state and national policy levels around issues of child welfare, early care, education, and the well-being of Latino children. For more information, please call 212-206-1090 or visit our website here.