Friday, September 04, 2015

UTSA researcher says religious belief may have connection to obesity prevention

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(Nov. 15, 2011) -- According to the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame, more than 90 percent of Latinos are members of faith-based organizations. This statistic led Meizi He, M.D., associate professor of health and kinesiology in the UTSA College of Education and Human Development, to wonder if churches might help Latinos combat obesity.

With seed money from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Dr. He and her colleagues embarked on a pilot research project: "Building a Healthy Temple -- A Faith-Based Community Participatory Research Project for Preventing Childhood Obesity Among Latino Families." Over several months, they traveled to nine churches in greater San Antonio to elicit the attitudes and beliefs of Latino parishioners toward healthy eating and living.

After speaking with the members of five Catholic and four Protestant churches on the West Side of San Antonio, the researchers learned that Latino church leaders and members perceive a strong link between faith and health. The Latinos surveyed generally viewed life as a God-given gift, creating a responsibility for Christians to take an active role in their spiritual and physical well-being.

He's research identified several factors for a successful obesity prevention program such as:

  • Having clergy serve as role models
  • Free after-school or summer camps providing physical activities for parents and children
  • Healthy cooking classes
  • Changes in food at church and home

The research also uncovered a variety of challenges to healthy living such as:

  • Financial constraints
  • Lack of nutrition knowledge
  • Lack of access to sidewalks, parks and physical activity programs
  • Busy lifestyles
  • Cultural barriers such as unhealthy, traditional Latino foods

With a grant from the San Antonio Life Sciences Institute, a partnership between UTSA and the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA), He and Deborah Parra-Medina, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio professor of epidemiology and biostatistics, developed and pilot-tested comprehensive, culturally sensitive obesity prevention programs for faith-based organizations. Their curriculum spans religious sermons, Sunday school classes, social events and other church offerings.

The researchers plan to apply for funding from the National Institutes of Health to implement their program in more churches in San Antonio and beyond.

 

 

Did You Know?

UTSA writes the book on all-digital libraries

As touch screens and e-books demand more and more attention from both casual readers and scholars, many people say the handwriting is on the wall for the printed page.

At UTSA, the handwriting is on the wall for a library that doesn't have any printed books.

Since March 2010, the bookless library in the Applied Engineering and Technology Building has given UTSA students an innovative way to read, research and work with each other to solve problems.

With ultra-modern furniture and a décor featuring desktop computers, scanners and LCD screens, the AET Library is designed to engage students in an online format. But it also offers group study niches and study rooms with whiteboards and glass walls on which students can write. The space encourages teamwork, communications and problem solving for the next generation of scientists and professional engineers.

Did you know? The UTSA AET Library is the nation's first completely bookless library on a college or university campus. It served as a model for Bexar County's first-in-the-nation public bookless library system and one of its branches, the Dr. Ricardo Romo BiblioTech.

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