Children and teens across the nation are learning lifestyle changes to keep a healthy weight thanks to an initiative of The National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN) Muevete USA™ Project.
Started in 2011, the aim of the educational project is to raise awareness in the Hispanic community about ways to reduce childhood and adolescent obesity, which is completely preventable. Obesity is the fastest-growing cause of disease and death in the United States, and Hispanics face a greater risk, statistics show.
One in 8 preschoolers is obese in the United States, and it’s even more common in Hispanic and black kids. Obese children are more likely to become obese adults and suffer physical and mental health problems.
The program expanded this year to include families. Nurses teach participants how to make smarter eating decisions by choosing healthy snacks, limiting serving sizes and reading labels. Nurses also combat childhood obesity by encouraging other lifestyle changes, such as increased physical activity to improve confidence and foster a healthy body image.
Interactive workshops feature the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s My Plate program, healthful snacks and fun family-friendly activities that get everyone moving, such as Zumba, hula hoops and jumping rope. While Latino and Hispanic children are the target audience, children from any ethnic background can participate in the program offered in schools and other community sites.
The good news is programs such as Muevete USA matter. Recent data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that rates of obesity in early childhood may be dropping for the first time in some states.
Inspired by First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign, the program is funded by a grant from the Coca-Cola Foundation. The project has expanded from five locations to 15. Participating cities this year include: Corpus Christi; Denver; Hartford; Los Angeles; Miami; Philadelphia; San Diego; Phoenix; and, Washington.
While we know that obese youth are more likely to become obese adults, education can make a difference. Nurses in programs like Muevete USA help to short-circuit this pervasive cycle.