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Westside residents grow in faith, fitness with UTSA's Building a Healthy Temple

Westside residents grow in faith, fitness with UTSA's Building a Healthy Temple

Building a Healthy Temple programs teach San Antonians how to create healthier lives through proper eating and exercise.

(Sept. 16, 2019) -- Westside San Antonio resident Norma Navarro comes from a diabetic family and aims to live a healthier lifestyle with her family. That’s why she participated in the UTSA program Building a Healthy Temple with her adult children at the Central Church of God. 

UTSA, an urban serving university, partners with faith communities to offer BHT. Its goal is to promote spiritual and physical health among families, prevent and manage chronic disease, and build a culture of health through healthy eating and active living. 

“We joined the program together to support one another as we learned how to eat better and exercise more,” said Navarro, a mother of three who has lived on the Westside for 34 years. 

She is one of hundreds of people at Central Church of God who have been part of BHT since it was first offered as a pilot program in 2012. The church has been open on the Westside for more than 70 years. 

Central Church of God’s lead pastor, José Daniel Montañez, said his church was one of the few churches where BHT was initially offered on the Westside and that people both young and old have been involved during different phases of the program ever since. 

At Central Church of God, UTSA has offered different BHT faith-based health promotion programs throughout the years with a focus on obesity prevention, cancer prevention and diabetes self-management. The diabetes self-management program was made possible through a partnership with San Antonio Metropolitan Health District. The church has even offered a Farm to Church program, through a partnership with the San Antonio Food Bank and the Healthy Vocational Bible School. 

BHT teaches participants at no cost how to read nutrition labels and receive cooking demonstrations to improve their diet. 

Navarro said she and her children learned how much sugar can be in certain drinks, like soda and tea, and how to swap out unhealthy foods for healthier options. In addition she learned how to incorporate more physical activity into her daily life. Navarro, who is 50 years old, says she now tries to do Zumba a few times each week. 

The BHT Bible study has a health focus and materials are presented in Spanish and English so they are easily accessible to all participants. 

“It’s great that UTSA focuses on the Spanish-speaking community on the Westside, where health resources like this are hard to come by,” explained Montañez. “Simple things that are taken for granted in other areas of town are, for us here, useful tools to make little changes to be healthier and be more active.” 

The pastor said incorporating lessons about health with faith and Scripture has been a regular practice ever since BHT has been established at the church. 

These days, Montañez and others plan events to get their congregants moving. He says there’s an event scheduled for later this month at the church that encourages members of the church to be active. 

“The program’s mission is to create healthier communities by preventing and managing chronic diseases and to build a culture of healthy living in places where people pray, live, learn and work,” said Meizi He, M.D., a professor in the UTSA College of Education and Human Development and director of the Human Nutrition Lab. 

Currently, the program serves more than 40 churches across the San Antonio area, including 11 on the South and West sides. This year the program will expand to more churches in Bexar County and the Rio Grande Valley. 

The BHT has been funded by Baptist Health Foundation of San Antonio, Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, Blue Cross Blue Shield and the American Diabetes Association.

Kara Soria

Learn more about Building a Healthy Temple.

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UTSA’s Mission

The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.

UTSA’s Vision

To be a premier public research university, providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.

UTSA’s Core Values

We encourage an environment of dialogue and discovery, where integrity, excellence, inclusiveness, respect, collaboration and innovation are fostered.

UTSA’S Destinations

UTSA is a proud Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) as designated by the U.S. Department of Education.