Students work to improve Hispanic family health and nutrition

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Students work to improve Hispanic family health and nutrition

A Fresno State child family and consumer sciences independent study class is using the Abriendo Caminos community health promotion program this semester to positively impact the health of area Hispanic families.

Translated into “Clearing the Path,” the program’s Spanish-speaking education sessions focus on nutrition, physical activity and wellness to help prevent childhood obesity in Hispanic families. Fresno State students lead the sessions and gather data from the families to measure the sessions’ effectiveness.

“We’ve had a great turnout because the program is culturally tailored and provides families with lots of low-cost ways to make healthy choices,” said Dr. Amber Hammons, Fresno State professor and local program coordinator. “There are high rates of obesity and Type II diabetes in the Central Valley, especially in minority communities, so the program is a great way for families to come together and talk about challenges to healthy living and to learn ways to combat some of these health threats.”

The 15-student class meets every Thursday for one-hour sessions to learn about obesity, challenges and influences on children, anthropometric measurement training, survey review techniques and program planning and implementation.

Since Sept. 17, students began meeting with families for two-hour sessions on campus each Saturday that will continue through Nov. 5. The project is in its second year, and 29 families have participated in the workshops so far.

Each Saturday session offers three, 30- to 45-minute units taught by Fresno State students that tackle obesity issues by encouraging healthy eating using traditional Hispanic dietary patterns, collective family mealtimes and physical activity. The project’s findings will be analyzed in the spring to measure the program’s impact.

Another objective of the research is to teach students, specifically Spanish-speaking undergraduates, about methods and challenges of subject recruitment, survey data collection and evaluation techniques, workshop delivery and presentation of results.

Hammons initiated the local project in 2015. The program was initially created by the University of Illinois Family Resiliency Center and supported by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture as part of the AFRI Childhood Obesity Prevention Challenge.

The program also is being tested in Illinois, Iowa, Puerto Rico and Texas to develop an effective, low-cost obesity prevention intervention program that can be used across the United States.

The final cycle of the local Abriendo Caminos program will take place in the fall 2017, and participants hope to partner with local Hispanic-serving agencies and continue the community program after funding has ended.

Before coming to Fresno State, Hammons was a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She also served as co-coordinator of the pilot prevention program that aimed to increase healthy behaviors in Latino families with 5- to 13-year-old children increasing physical activity, fruit and vegetable consumption and family togetherness. She worked on the Connect for Health project that connected college students with an afterschool program to increase children’s physical activity.

For more information, contact Dr. Amber Hammons at ahmmons@csufresno.edu or 559.278.1158.

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