E-Hand to Hand, News from El Buen Samaritano - April 2011 Issue
Building a Healthy Community, One Family at a Time
Have you ever sat in a line at McDonald's, too tired from working or running errands to fix something healthier for dinner? Or have you asked yourself, "Why am I so tired lately?"
Studies show the impact of exercise and healthy eating goes far beyond appearance. The health and longevity of a person is at risk when behaviors tied to unhealthy eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle are not addressed at an early age. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Peopleshealth.com, there is an alarming increase in the number of children and adolescents developing type-2 diabetes due to being overweight. Additionally, high levels of cholesterol and high blood pressure--some of the main risk factors for development of heart diseases--are found in most obese children. Obese children are at higher risk of developing, liver diseases, orthopedic problems and asthma, and also face potential psychosocial effects brought about by obesity--distorted peer relationships, poor self-esteem, anxiety and depression, to name only a few.
Today's obesity, tomorrow's society
As the National Center for Health Statistics states, the number of obese children has doubled during the last three decades. And seven out of every ten adolescents who are obese will retain this condition even during their adulthood. The stakes are even higher for Austin's Latino community. Children's Optimal Health found that a high proportion of Austin Independent School District's students who are overweight or obese live in primarily Latino neighborhoods. This means the emerging generation faces a quiet epidemic of preventable diseases brought on from a wide array of unhealthy behaviors. Obesity in children must be challenged now.
How to combat this complex condition in Austin's growing Latino population
El Buen Samaritano Episcopal Mission was recently named one out of four nonprofit grant-award recipients in Texas by the AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation. Through this $150,000 grant, El Buen Samaritano will have the opportunity to advance its family-focused bilingual health and fitness program, Salud Hoy: Formando Familias Saludables (Health Today: Building Healthy Families). The program, which integrates the education, exercise, behavioral health and medical services of El Buen Samaritano, seeks to impact nearly 90 families.
Salud Hoy is designed to provide effective weight management techniques for children at risk of becoming overweight and overweight children, ages six through 14, by promoting long-term healthy habits.
"Our goal is to help low-income Central Texas Latino families and children become healthier through education and exercise," said Mona Izquierdo, director of education at El Buen Samaritano. "By learning healthy habits at an early age, children in our community will have valuable tools for a healthier future." Each week, families learn how to incorporate healthier habits to their daily routine through classes in behavioral health, nutrition and exercise. "Families receive physical exams at our Wallace Mallory Clinic as well as diabetes testing, high blood pressure and cholesterol monitoring. We want them to see the impact changed behaviors are making on their health," Mona said.
Salud Hoy brings together three key components of successful obesity intervention and prevention:
The program holds weekly group discussions with families and adolescents, emphasizing prevention by helping parents and children learn how to modify behavior. Behavioral health issues can range from stress management, bullying, parenting and problems with self-esteem and body image.
Orlando Deleon, L.C.S.W, Behavioral Health Specialist, on the behavioral health approach utilized in Salud Hoy: Formando Familias Saludables:
"When it comes to learning to meet one's true needs, people are social beings. Rarely can we survive alone in this world. Families, for better or worse, are our initial and usual primary support systems."
"To affect the child, we need to affect the entire family. Salud Hoy: Formando Familias Saludables is a family-focused approach to intervention and prevention. More specifically, it is a family-ecological-system approach, which views the family's ecology, consisting of the various systems in which the family and child interact--examples of these include, home, school and community. Several clinical studies have demonstrated this approach to be promising in improving family interactions and a family's ability to change unhealthy behaviors, and consequently the child's."
The program incorporates weekly sessions on nutrition education to help children and parents learn about making smart food choices in the interest of developing a healthy lifestyle. A professional chef will work with a nutritionist and families to develop a meal that is healthy and easy to make.
Veronica Saldate, Nutritionist, on the importance of teaching children and families to compliment exercise with healthy eating habits:
"I believe teaching healthy habits to children and their families creates positive change in their lives. Leading a healthy lifestyle is not only about eating well or exercising. Many different factors have to come together to truly make a lifestyle change. However, when the change is made, the rewards are immense, especially when future health problems can be avoided. It takes the entire family to not only create but also maintain change, and if we get the family unit involved as a whole from the beginning, the probability of success is even greater."
Through a comprehensive fitness plan, Salud Hoy helps participant children and families to incorporate physical activities as a fun part of their daily routine. Group leaders provide structured lessons to increase stamina and energy levels.
Ben Swann, Fitness Leader, on the importance of teaching children and families exercise as a critical part of their daily routine:
"Physical activity has been pushed to the wayside for many families. Parents have the pressures of work. Kids spend hours in front of the television or computer, playing video games. This has become a serious issue, especially amongst Austin's Latino community. Diseases associated with obesity have dramatically risen within our client population."
"Tackling the problem of an inactive lifestyle by working with parents and children at the same time allows that family to grow together as they struggle to change their way of life. Showing parents how their actions are noted and modeled by their children helps them realize that they can change their children's lifestyle by changing their own. And there's nothing better than helping children learn to value physical activity as fun and exciting. We want to spark a lifelong interest in physical activity."
Meet a participant family
Lucrecia Valverde de Cruz (photo right), a South Austin resident, and long-time client of El Buen Samaritano says, "I'm really concerned about the health of my boys. I want to make sure they stay active. That's why I registered for Salud Hoy. I want to keep my family united and encourage them to lead healthy lives."
The Cruz family has been involved with El Buen Samaritano since 2006. Since then, Lucrecia has learned healthy cooking techniques, strengthened her English and accessed health care services at El Buen Samaritano's Wallace Mallory Clinic. Her children are also part of El Buen's family. "My oldest son is a patient of the clinic and the youngest one attends the Child Learning Center while I take exercise classes," Lucrecia said.
Lucrecia is excited to be part of the first class of Salud Hoy. The first of four ten-week Salud Hoy sessions began on March 22 and runs through May 26, 2011. You will hear more about the Valverde family's progress in Salud Hoy over the next few months.
For more information or to begin a conversation and explore ways to work together to build a healthy community, contact Mona Izquierdo, director of education.
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