SCAT program teaches obesity prevention

On August 19, 2009, in Community/Arts, by The News Staff

SCAT's
Next Generation Producers program has taught local Latinas ways to
control weight and prevent chronic diseases like Type 2 diabetes
through the shows they have produced.

By Julia Fairclough

Never
skip a meal because it can lead to over eating, eat protein for energy,
and drink six to eight glasses of water each day, John Mendoza told me,
while a group of his peers from Jovenes Latinos feasted on a healthy
dinner of red beans and rice, grilled chicken, cooked green beans,
salad, fruit, and brownies made with black beans.

The group of
seven Latino teenagers and folks from Somerville Community Health
Agenda of Cambridge Health Alliance dined in the Somerville Community
Access Television (SCAT) meeting room right before viewing their series
of three talk shows, "Latinos Living Better for the Future" ("Latinos
Viviendo Major para el Futuro").

For the past six weeks, SCAT's
Next Generation Producers program-under the direction of Daniel
Marques, SCAT's youth media and membership coordinator and Prince
Charles, the programming coordinator and youth media instructor-has
taught local Latinas ways to control weight and prevent chronic
diseases like Type 2 diabetes through producing the shows.

Next
Generations Producers program teaches youth through hands-on
instruction the art of digital media production, equipment. Youth
acquire the skills needed to create media projects that communicate
their own ideas to the broader community.

The three 20-minute
shows-in both English and Spanish-will air on SCAT's media Web site,
www.saymedia.blogspot.com and on the Next Generation MySpace page,
www.myspace.com/nextgenerationproducers.

The shows are great way
to share ideas on how Latino families can live better in Somerville to
a wider audience, Charles said. In one short month, students explored
the topic, developed a plan, created questions for guests (healthcare
professionals) and interviewed them, while learning about why obesity
is a preventable health issue.

The guests offer tips for parents
on how to eat better, how to read labels, the importance of exercise
and other lifestyle issues.

Latinos have a high rate of obesity
and diabetes, both nationally and locally. Nearly one-fifth of American
four-year-olds are obese, and children of color are at higher risk,
according to new research in the April issue of the Archives of
Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine..

Researchers calculated
the body mass index from a sample of 8,550 Hispanic, black, white,
Asian and Native American 4-year-olds. The children were born in 2001,
and in 2005, their height and weight were measured — 18.4 percent of
them were obese.

Jessie Vasquez, 15, learned a lot from
interviewing a nutritionist and physician about how to reduce the
chances of getting diabetes. It's better to exercise before eating, and
people should avoid large meals at night, she said.

Both
Vasquez and Mendoza agreed that obesity was an issue in their
community. Certain habits, like looking at the price rather than the
nutritional label and splurging on fast foods could be part of the
culprit, they said.

They added that food was fresher and
lighter in their native country, El Salvador. And indeed studies show
that most of the changes that have occurred in body fat tend to occur
from being in an environment that promotes very easy access to
high-caloric foods and limited opportunities for physical activities.

Teens
eat out at fast food restaurants, Vasquez said. "People sit and play
video games and eat," Mendoza said. "They don't get enough physical
activity."

Teens are the voice of the future, and at just the
right age to learn about prevention, said Ismael Vasquez, the Latino
Youth Program Director at Somerville Community Health Agenda of
Cambridge Health Alliance. The video is a new venture for the alliance
to create a message for the Latino community, he said.

"In the
immigrant community, the transition we made from our country is to a
much different environment," he said. "For example, El Salvador is
different. There's less money, so you eat less."

Obesity also
feeds itself on the resulting low self esteem, said Michelle Rubiera,
an exercise instructor who works with Cambridge Health Alliance, the
South End Community Clinic and Step Up in Dorchester. Staying active is
integral to good health but is an upward battle in a culture that
"mainly just exercises their fingers" with video games and computers.

Students
also learned about the power of the media-film-in getting a message
across, as well as the soup-to-nuts of video production.

"I
loved learning how to use the video camera and recording," said
fourteen-year-old Beverly Abrego. "Being a talk show host was neat,
although nerve wracking."

 

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