Saturday, September 7, 2013

Resources to Assist the Health & Well-Being of Latino Children

The following is a guest post by Jennifer Stinson, freelancer for Everyday and its recipe and calorie counter tools.

Racial and ethnic diversity has grown in the United States over the last few decades. Looking at diversity among children is the best place to predict what the country will look like in the future. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2012, 53 percent of the U.S. children were white, non-Hispanic; 24 percent were Hispanic; 14 percent were black, non-Hispanic; 5 percent were Asian, non-Hispanic; and 5 percent were non-Hispanic “All other races.” It is predicted that the population will become even more diverse as the country ages.

It makes sense to invest in the health and well-being of Latino children. They are the face of our future. However, Latino children tend to grow up with higher social risk factors, including low educational attainment, single parent homes, uninsured, and low income that decrease their health outcomes. The more social risk factors a child has, the more likely they are to have poor health, to be overweight, and to have more social/emotional problems than children with fewer household risks.

So what needs to change in order for Latino families to change the future and well-being of their children?

Better Nutrition

It starts the day a baby is born. Increasing awareness among Latinas that breast feeding can reduce food insecurity and give baby the best nutrition is the job of The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). They also provide supplemental foods, including formula for those mothers who do not wish to breast feed, as well as nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding postpartum women. Infants and children (up to age 5) that are at nutritional risk also receive help.

Through WIC, dietitians can help families make better use of their dollars spent at the super market. Food insecure families tend to turn to lower cost, nutrient-dense and overly processed foods in place of higher priced produce, whole grains and clean meals that offer more nutrients and less calories. Comparing processed foods with whole foods yields much less caloric intake according to Everyday Health's Calorie Counter. This type of diet not only increases the risk for obesity, but it can lead to micro-nutrient deficiencies, such as iron deficiency.

Schools offer free breakfast and reduced price lunch options to low-income families through the National School Lunch Program. These programs increase nutrient intake among children and have been shown to make significant improvements in academic performance. Undernourished students tend to have poor attendance, shorter attention span, and lower performance scores than their well-nourished peers.

Get Moving!

Recent studies have shown that Latino adults spend very little time engaging in physical activity according to an article published in the journal Pediatrics in 2011. This sedentary lifestyle may be rubbing off on the younger generation – contributing to obesity and higher rates of diabetes among Latino children.

The Let's Move! Initiative has been working to reverse this trend by challenging children to get in 60 minutes of play with moderate to vigorous activity every day for health and well-being. Getting schools, families and communities on board with moving more can change the health and academic statistics of the Latino population. A new report from the Institute of Medicine shows that exercise can significantly improve cognitive ability in children, as well as academic performance and over all health.

Getting physical activity is becoming more challenging these days, as schools cut physical education programs and after school sports programs. As a parent, you can create your own neighborhood play program at the local park after school, or host a family dance party. Play active games with your children like tag, kick-ball and hopscotch.

Take advantage of these programs to give kids the best chance to be healthy and excel in school.


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