Salud America! awarded $1.3 million for building research, education to fuel policy changes that reduce Latino childhood obesity

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Feb. 9, 2015)—Salud America! The RWJF Research Network to Prevent Obesity Among Latino Children has received a one-year, $1.3 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).

Salud America! is a San Antonio-based national online network of 10,000 parents, leaders, academics, and advocates seeking environmental and policy solutions to Latino obesity.

The grant will be used to develop new evidence and educational content to drive healthy policy changes for the health of Latino children. The network also will enhance its award-winning Salud America! Growing Healthy Change website, launched in February 2014, with an interactive map and new campaigns, videos and resources to help people make healthy changes in cities, schools, states and the nation.

“Latino childhood obesity remains a national health threat, but we believe our research and multimedia educational content will continue to motivate people to push for healthy changes in their areas,” said Amelie Ramirez, Dr.P.H., professor and director of the Institute for Health Promotion Research (IHPR) at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio and director of Salud America!

Latino children ages 2 to 19 are more obese/overweight (38.9 percent) than white (28.5 percent) and black (35.2 percent) children, studies show. Latino children also face barriers to healthy food access and physical activity, and they are increasingly the target of unhealthy food marketing.

Salud America! aims to build the research, education and materials needed to address these challenges and reverse the obesity epidemic among Latino children.

With the new funding, effective Feb. 1, 2015, to Jan. 31, 2016, Salud America! will:

• update the latest research in Latino childhood obesity;
• expand research into other Latino health issues;
• enhance Growing Healthy Change website content, including a revamped policy map where people can enter their address and see what’s happening near them;
• launch new campaigns to engage people in reducing obesity;
• continue producing multimedia Salud Heroes stories of successful healthy changes; and
• expand in social media (@SaludToday) with Tweetchats, contests, etc.

“This new funding will allow us to further expand our content-creation capabilities to empower more people to make healthy changes,” Ramirez said. “Our website and content will continue to be used by individuals and groups who choose to advocate directly for evidence-based governmental and corporate policies addressing Latino health.”

In its first few years, Salud America! created obesity-focused communication materials, developed the first-ever Latino research agenda, and funded 20 research grantees. Grantees found that guided grocery store trips, menu labeling at restaurants, and video-game-based exercise programs are among several promising, culturally appropriate ways to prevent obesity among Latino children, according to a published collection of studies.

In 2013, Salud America! published research reviews and recommendations to fuel policy change in: active play, active spaces, better food, school snacks, marketing and sugary drinks.

That research built a foundation for 2014’s Growing Healthy Change website, a first-of-its-kind online platform with geo-located policy initiatives, resources for taking action, and “Salud Hero” videos that demonstrate the steps people took to make healthy changes. The website and its content been recognized by the AVA Digital Awards, 20th Annual Communicator Awards, Telly Awards, Aurora Awards; Web Health Awards, HERMES Awards, Davey Awards, and W³ Awards from The Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts.

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