Organizations Strive to Solve the Latino Childhood Obesity Epidemic

Salud America is a research network and online portal with a unique goal.

The organization is a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and encompasses a network of Latino scientists and policy makers that aim to prevent obesity among Hispanic children in the United States.

"Latinos are younger, poorer and more uninsured than other population groups," a YouTube video by Salud America said.

And the statistics bear this out.

Last year the U.S. Census reported that the Hispanic population had grown to 50.5 million people. Of the 50.5 million Latinos in the U.S. 16 million are under the age of 18.

According to the organization, Leadership for Healthy Communities, 38.2 percent of Hispanic children aged 2-19 are overweight. "That is the statistic that should be our wake-up call,” said Jennifer Ng'andu, Deputy Director of the National Council of La Raza's health policy project.

Fresh off the heels of National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month in September, the spotlight is clearly on an issue that is pressing for the entire nation and not just among Latinos.

U.S. Surgeon General, Regina M. Benjamin, has started a childhood obesity initiative where her office promotes a healthy lifestyle by encouraging an active living and nutritional choices.

Childhood obesity causes overweight children and adolescents to experience asthma, cardiovascular risks, diabetes, sleep apnea, and psychological effects of social stigmatization, according to the Surgeon General.

And Latino children are disproportionately affected. Compared to the 38.2 percent of Latino children and adolescents that are obese, the general population figure stands at 31.7 percent.

The office of the Surgeon General, in an effort to address these numbers, has published a public service announcement in Spanish titled "Mi Cocina," which seeks to promote healthy choices by parents.

The issue of childhood obesity has even come to the attention of First Lady Michelle Obama, who supports the same efforts through her "Lets Move!" campaign. "Lets Move!" concentrates on raising a generation of healthy children.

Dharma Cortes, a researcher at the University of Massachusetts, is one of a number of people investigating the problem of Latino childhood obesity with a grant from Salud America,

She says the key to fighting the health crisis is improving Latino families' knowledge concerning nutrition.

Organizations like Salud America and the National Council of La Raza along with help from national entities hope to continue to address the issue of obesity among children, particularly Latinos. Salud America concludes its video with the positivity that can come from significant lifestyle changes among Latino families.

"Now you know the challenges we face," it said.

"Our future depends on the actions we all take going forward. If we work together, you have the power to help us live healthier, happier lives.

Watch the Salud America video below.

Contact Sandra E. Garcia at or on Twitter @S_Evangelina.

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