Fighting the Obesity Epidemic

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Story Updated: Mar 28, 2013

According to Dr. America Bracho, one of the most difficult things that Latinos face today is learning to manage their weight. That's why the Venezolana executive director of Latino Health Access in California has developed Peso Saludable, a one-year bilingual program that's helping parents and their children achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

Generally speaking, obesity is rampant in the Latino community, and diabetes -- which can lead to terrifying prospects such as blindness or limb amputations -- is an epidemic. Where Bracho is based, in Santa Anna, Calif., she's at a ground zero of sorts for poor eating and obesity. The good doctor has her work cut out for her: In the community, residents have limited access to affordable healthy foods, parks and even physical education in schools.

Bracho's Peso Saludable program combats the effects of obesity, which include both physical (diabetes, heart disease, joint problems) and mental (low self-esteem) symptoms. The bilingual, one-on-one counseling helps families learn not only how to eat better and exercise, but also helps facilitate these goals. For instance, if parents can't find a place to exercise, they'll help them find one.

In addition, families receive mentorship and guidance from promotores (community health workers) who visit homes to provide personalized coaching. They offer advice and solutions on real issues that affect obesity, including discipline, good habits and even safety in some instances.

Most importantly, families and individuals learn to become advocates
themselves, sharing what they've learned with others in their community. This
idea is paramount to Bracho's philosophy and success: She's called
participation one of the keys to her "subscription to obesity," an
organizational method she learned in her native Venezuela, which she's found
fosters good health.

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