Healthy Families Initiative of La Paz Chattanooga teaches Hispanics about wholesome living

Healthy Families Initiative of La Paz Chattanooga teaches Hispanics about wholesome living

October 31st, 2011 by Perla Trevizo in News

Santiago Nuñez, second from left, Maria Avalos Nuñez, second from right, and Jessica Cliche, right, talk with Crabtree Farms intern Jordan Graig at the farm.

Photo by Angela Lewis /Times Free Press.

HEALTHY LIVING


• Lifestyle factors including poor nutrition, being overweight, lack of exercise, smoking and uncontrolled high blood pressure are risks for chronic disease.

• Overweight and obesity contribute to the development and difficulty of treating chronic conditions such as early heart disease, high blood pressure, infertility, diabetes and respiratory problems.

• A healthy diet includes a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and limited saturated fats.

• Thirty minutes a day of moderate exercise like walking can help cut a person's risk of heart disease, diabetes and other conditions. Longer and more demanding physical activity is even more protective.

• Regular physical activity is associated with better maintenance of body weight, more effective weight loss, improved balance, clearer thinking and better quality sleep.

Source: Tennessee Women's Health Report Card, Men's Health Report Card

A tour of Crabtree Farms turned into an exchange of farming practices between Paraguay native Maria Avalos Nuñez and her guide.

"We grew strawberries in our country," Avalos Nuñez told Andrea Jaeger, as Avalos Nuñez touched every leaf, smelled every plant and asked every question she could think of.

Avalos Nuñez and her husband, Santiago Nuñez, toured part of the 25-acre farm off Rossville Boulevard recently as part of the Healthy Families Initiative of La Paz Chattanooga.

"We want to promote local farms and markets so they consume local produce," said Jessica Cliche, who leads the newest program aimed at empowering local Hispanics to take control of their health.

The program is funded with a $34,000 grant from the Benwood Foundation. La Paz started the Promotores de Salud, or health promoters, model in 2008 with a focus on prenatal care. Tennessee gave the organization $207,000 to run the three-year program, but funding was not renewed this year.

"We saw that nutrition went across all issues - diabetes, obesity, heart disease - and we wanted to continue using the model," said Stacy Johnson, executive director of La Paz.

The program allows lay health educators to serve as bridges between health care providers and Hispanics who lack adequate access to or knowledge of the system, the organization said.

The goal is to reach 100 people by next year through nutrition and cooking classes and outings - such as the tour to Crabtree Farms - and by working closely with the schools with high Hispanic enrollment.

The workshops will focus on health topics, such as dental care, nutrition, diabetes and obesity and everyday hygiene.

"The ultimate goal is prevention," said Johnson.

Nationwide, Hispanics have a 21 percent higher obesity prevalence than whites and are almost twice as likely to suffer from diabetes as non-Hispanic whites, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A person's race or ethnicity does not determine any single health problem, but race and ethnicity are often linked with factors such as income, education and access to health care, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.

In 2009, diabetes was the seventh-leading cause of death in Tennessee, according to Tennessee's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Ten percent of non-Hispanic white women reported diabetes that year, compared with 12 percent of Hispanic women.

That same year, 72.6 percent of non-Hispanic white males reported being overweight or obese compared with 77.4 percent of Hispanic or nonwhite males in that category.

Despite Avalos Nuñez's 30 years of farming experience and her focus on healthy eating, she was diagnosed with diabetes 15 years ago.

Now she walks at least 30 minutes every day and goes to every nutrition class she can.

"If you want to live, at least try to have a good quality of life," said the 68-year-old program participant as she tried okra for the first time.

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