Pilot program to address obesity in preschoolers
As obesity in school-aged children
becomes a national crisis, researchers in San Antonio are finding that many children are already overweight
or obese before they even enter
A 2002 American Heart Association study reported that one in 10 children
between the ages of 2 and 5 is overweight. So UTSA researchers Zenong Yin, Suzanne Winter, Art Hernandez,
Ashley Love and Susan Veitschegger
with the College of Education and
Human Development and the Child
and Adolescent Policy Research
Institute have launched “Healthy and
Ready to Learn.” This program focuses on preventing excessive weight
gain and promoting healthy development
in high-risk Mexican American preschoolers. Funded with a $250,000 grant from the Baptist Health Care Center, the program will target children ages 3 through 5.
“We are entering an area of research that is virtually untapped,” said Winter, principal investigator and associate
professor of early childhood education. “We know of no other program that
comprehensively targets young children with a multifaceted program of evidence-based diabetes prevention. We are
developing all the materials, exercises and packets from scratch. It’s a
daunting task, but of course at the same time, it is extraordinarily exciting.”
Members of the Edgewood Family Network, Promotoras, will accompany
researchers to child care centers, where teachers and parents will be provided with information and activities to encourage children to eat healthy, increase their physical activity and spend less time
viewing TV or playing video games.
Sex and the media
To determine the impact of the media on adolescents’
knowledge and attitudes about sex, researchers from the College of Liberal and Fine Arts and the College of
Education and Human Development recently conducted studies involving local Hispanic teens.
“Little is known about Hispanic teens’ sexual knowledge, attitudes and behaviors, and their relationship to media influences,” said Viviana Rojas,
study investigator and assistant professor of communication. “Information about this relationship could contribute to an understanding of the
early onset of sexual behavior and early teen pregnancy.”
A 2005 report from the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District indicated
that birth rates among Bexar County teens ages 15 to 17 were 80 percent higher than the national average in 2003. These rates vary among minority populations, but the
report showed that Hispanic teens appear to be
at highest risk.
Through focus groups conducted at San Antonio middle and high schools, UTSA researchers found that teens readily adopted styles of dress, expressions and attitudes seen and heard through media channels. Teens also admitted that the attitude toward sex portrayed in the media makes them feel less vulnerable to the risks and realities of sexual behavior, and that they rely on the media for information and a behavioral standard.
Additionally, male participants said what they saw on television affected their expectations about the way their partners act, dress and
participate in sexual activities.
Rojas hopes the data gathered will be used to create more effective sex education programs. “The information collected will also contribute to future studies on how teenagers talk about sex, parents’ involvement in the sex education of their children and the role of the Hispanic family in sexual education,” she said.
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