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UTSA, UTHSCSA collaborate on program to combat childhood obesity

Cookie Monster
graduate students

Top photo: Cookie Monster and COEHD graduate students educate children about healthy eating habits at Burleson Early Childhood Center.
Bottom photo (from left, standing): Lisa Blais, Arely Perez, Daisy Escamilla and Desiree Acosta
>> View a compilation of news videos on the project from KABB-TV, KSAT-TV and KWEX-TV.

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(June 4, 2010)--The UTSA College of Education and Human Development and the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio are collaborating to combat the growing problem of childhood obesity in San Antonio. Both universities are partners in the San Antonio Life Sciences Institute (SALSI) Get Healthy Together/Juntos y Saludables grant program, a joint initiative assessing the effect of obesity and diabetes prevention efforts in early childhood.

The grant is a two-year project in three pre-schools that teach primarily Mexican-American children. Get Healthy Together is funded through SALSI, which received $8 million to fund this and other projects in the last session of the Legislature.

Last month, the "Sesame Street" television character Cookie Monster teamed with graduate students in the UTSA Department of Kinesiology to help children and parents from the Burleson Early Childhood Education Center and Stafford Early Childhood Education Center celebrate an entire school year of the "Healthy Habits for Life" health curriculum. The two Edgewood Independent School District centers hosted the project interventions, which included activity cards on outdoor play and nutrition, parent education seminars on obesity, training on physical activity and nutrition, and a staff wellness programs.

Other unique features of the project include a strengthened, structured gross-motor program, child literacy-based gross-motor activities, a cafeteria healthier eating promotion campaign and a staff wellness program. The Cookie Monster, long known as a gobbler of delicious cookies, now reminds children that cookies are a "sometimes" snack food and promotes the eating of fruits and vegetables.

Get Healthy Together is testing whether it is possible to indoctrinate students for life with healthier behaviors via positive interactions with their parents, teachers and other school personnel. "Juntos y Saludables" is based on the concept that children will indeed develop healthy behaviors if provided an interactive, supporting learning environment at school and at home, according to co-principal investigator Zenong Yin, Loretta J. Lowak Clarke Distinguished Professor in Health and Kinesiology at UTSA.

"Family involvement is very critical in formulating health behaviors in young children," said Yin. "In Get Healthy Together, we are using innovative strategies to actively involve parents and family members in children's learning of healthy habits."

UTSA kinesiology faculty and students involved in the project included Assistant Professor Alberto Cordova and graduate students Desiree Acosta, Rebecca Adejibe, Daisy Escamilla, Lisa Blais, Arely Perez, Bonnie Dillon and Amanda Vaquera.

"We believe this collaborative project will help preschool-aged children develop healthy habits that will last into grade school, adolescence and adulthood, as well as increase parents' awareness of the importance of good nutrition and physical activity for themselves and their children," said Amelie G. Ramirez, co-principal investigator of the project and director of the Institute for Health Promotion Research at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio. "The sooner children and parents are exposed to these beneficial messages, the better."

Ramirez and other project researchers have associations with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation National Childhood Obesity Prevention Program. Through these connections, the Get Healthy Together project can use a bilingual curriculum for children ages 3-5 that was developed by the Children's Television Workshop (CTW) and features "Sesame Street" characters, songs and dances. Project directors are collaborating with CTW production research staff for the duration of the project, May 2009 to August 2011.

Research suggests that efforts to prevent obesity should begin early in life because of the prevalence of obesity persisting into adulthood. An estimated 25 percent of preschool children are overweight; therefore intervening during early childhood should be a priority. Low-income minority children are at the greatest risk to be overweight at an early age, so intervention at ages 3-5 with these population groups is critical to prevent obesity.

Mexican-Americans have an obesity rate of 22 percent among children ages 2-5. The population of San Antonio is 57 percent Hispanic. Hispanic children in San Antonio are further at risk for obesity because they are more likely to live in families of a low socioeconomic status, have parents whose highest academic achievement is high school or less, and live in neighborhoods where outdoor physical activity is restricted by climate, safety concerns or lack of facilities.

The project teams faculty from the Department of Health and Kinesiology at UTSA with faculty from the Institute for Health Promotion Research, which is part of the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio School of Medicine.

 

 

Events
Feb. 5, 6:15 p.m.

First Friday Stargazing

The UTSA Department of Physics and Astronomy's Curtis Vaughan Observatory will offer free stargazing for the public beginning on top of the 4th floor of the Flawn Science Building. Experienced astronomers will be on hand to show a variety of astronomical objects and answer any questions. This event is free and open to the public, so feel free to invite friends and family.
Curtis Vaughan Observatory

Feb. 6, All Day

10th annual San Antonio Writing Project Teachers' Conference

This year's keynote speaker is Donalyn Miller, author of The Book Whisper. The event will feature breakout sessions and a presentation by the Creative Writers from North East School of the Arts. The event is free and open to all teachers from Pre-K through university level. Attendees can earn a certificate for 3 hours of Professional Development Credit.
Riklin Auditorium (FS1.406), Downtown Campus

Feb. 9, 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. & 6 - 9 p.m.

Rowdy Gras 2016

The UTSA community is invited to attend the 3rd annual Rowdy Gras celebration! This year Rowdy Gras includes a daytime event from 11 a.m. -1 p.m. with a free food tasting and music on the UC Paseo. The main event takes place from 6 - 9 p.m. in the UC Lawn. The event includes free food, live jazz music, activities and giveaways.
University Center Paseo & Lawn, UTSA Main Campus

Feb. 10, 5:30 p.m.

UTSA College of Architecture, Construction and Planning 2015-16 Speaker Series

The UTSA College of Architecture, Construction and Planning’s 2015-16 Speaker Series continues with Dana Cuff, Ph.D., a professor of architecture and urbanism at the University of California, Los Angeles. In her talk, Cuff will discuss new forms of “studio” and new types of practices. Free and open to the public.
Aula Canaria Lecture Hall (BV 1.328), UTSA Downtown Campus

Feb. 13, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

29th annual Asian Festival - Year of the Monkey

The UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures invites Texas and Texans to the Asian Festival. What began as a traditional family reunion for the Chinese New Year has expanded to include other Asian communities and participants, showcasing their unique culture and traditions.
The UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures

Feb. 13, 1 p.m.

2016 Interdisciplinary Studies Colloquium

Join the UTSA Department of Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching in celebrating interdisciplinary inquiry at the 2016  Interdisciplinary Studies Colloquium.  The colloquium will include a panel of faculty and recent doctoral graduate and a showcase of the best IDS undergraduate inquiry projects of the year 2015. The event is free and open to the public.
Business Building (BB 2.06.04), UTSA Main Campus

Feb. 23, 5:30 p.m.

African-American Social Welfare Pioneers Responding to Community Needs

The UTSA College of Public Policy presents the Dean's Distinguished Lecture Series featuring Dr. Iris Carlton-LaNey, Professor of the School of Social Work at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Dr. Iris Carlton LaNey will speak to the UTSA community about the role and impact of African-Americans in the social work profession.
Buena Vista Theater (BV 1.326), Downtown Campus

Feb. 23, 7 p.m.

Presentation and Book Signing with Luis Carlos Montalvan

Please join us for a presentation and book signing by Luis Carlos Montalván (Fmr. Capt., USA), author of the New York Times Bestseller Until Tuesday and the international award-winning childrens book Tuesday Tucks Me In. His books will be available for purchase at the UTSA Bookstore. This event is free and open to the public.
Southwest Room (DB 1.124), Downtown Campus

Feb. 25, 6 p.m.

12th Annual Black Heritage Gala

The 12th Annual Black Heritage Gala is a formal event which includes a student performance, keynote remarks by Michael Brown, an award presentation, dinner and dancing. Tickets are $10 for UTSA students and $15 for all other guests. Tickets are on sale now at Roadrunner Express. Contact (210) 458-4770 for more information.
H-E-B University Center Ballroom, Main Campus

Feb. 27, 9 a.m.

Cultural Contrasts in Latin America

The UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures will host a free workshop focusing on teaching Latin American culture and geography for students seeking their teacher certification. The workshop includes free resources for teaching Latin American subject matter as well as presentations on language, identity, music, geography, and political and developmental history, and a special educators’ tour of the museum’s Los Tejanos exhibit. Free with registration.
The UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures (ITC 3.01.02)


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