Student nurses train to stem the tide of Latino youth obesity

Contact: Will Sansom, UT Health Science Center San Antonio, (210) 567-2579
Ashley Gula, The Coca-Cola Company, (202) 756-3177

SAN ANTONIO (March 8, 2011) — Hispanic nursing students in five U.S. cities — Chicago, Phoenix, San Antonio, Brownsville, Texas, and Edinburg, Texas — will become trainer-influencers to communities, steering Hispanic youth and their families away from the damaging lifelong effects of childhood and adolescent obesity.

Muevete (Move) USA is the nursing students’ training course. This program, which began March 5-6 with sessions in San Antonio, will equip the students to spread the message of a balanced life through healthy choices. The Muevete USA project director is Norma Martinez Rogers, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, of The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio. She is a professor of family and community health systems in the university’s School of Nursing.

Pivotal players

“I know, as a Latina, that our children will have problems as adults if we let them continue to be obese,” Dr. Rogers said. “We have to teach our children how to eat healthy, and through Muevete USA we are teaching an ideal population, Hispanic nursing students, to be pivotal players in that process. This also parallels first lady Michelle Obama’s endeavor to eliminate obesity.”

Nine million U.S. children are overweight or obese. “Each one of these little children is a time bomb waiting to explode prematurely with unprecedented chronic disease,” Dr. Rogers said. “We need more innovation, such as community health workers, health care extenders and smart shoppers, to increase health literacy so we can read labels and understand what to buy.”

Foundation support

The program is funded by a $150,000 grant from The Coca-Cola Foundation. “This is the first time the foundation has partnered with Hispanic nurses to combat obesity in our Latino population,” Dr. Rogers said.

“The Coca-Cola Company recognizes that obesity is a complex and serious public health problem. Our goal is to make a positive difference in the lives of youth by supporting programs that encourage physical activity, exercise and nutritional education,” said Frank Ros, vice president, Hispanic strategies, The Coca-Cola Company. “We are proud to partner with the National Association of Hispanic Nurses to improve the quality of maintaining an active, healthy lifestyle and nursing care of Hispanic patients and to provide equal access to educational, professional and economic opportunities for Hispanic nurses.”

Culture and context

Dr. Rogers’ colleague, Adelita G. Cantu, Ph.D., RN, assistant professor at the UT Health Science Center School of Nursing, leads the community service-learning portion of Muevete USA.

“We will use a program called Healthy Choices for Kids as a model of outreach in the five cities,” Dr. Cantu said. “Health Choices for Kids is a summer camp run by medical and nursing students at the Health Science Center. Students teach children in neighborhoods under the auspices of faculty advisers. Students begin to understand how culture and context affects health-risk behaviors in Hispanic children and adolescents residing in low-income urban barrios.”

This interaction may take the form of afterschool programs, church groups or outdoor meetings in poor border settlements called colonias. “Wherever at-risk children are in the community, this model will be implemented,” Dr. Cantu said.


Issues affecting healthy behaviors may include:

  • The presence of stray dogs that makes it unsafe for children to go outside;
  • The lack of grocery stores in barrios, resulting in families shopping at ice houses;
  • Lower prices of foods that lack nutritional value;
  • Lack of transportation to obtain healthier food.

Thirty-five Hispanic students from the five cities and also Los Angeles gathered in San Antonio March 5-6 to be briefed on Muevete USA. All are students of nursing schools and are members of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN), which Dr. Rogers served as president from 2008 to 2010 and which Dr. Cantu serves as a board member. NAHN local chapter member nurses will be essential to the success of Muevete USA by acting as faculty advisers to the nursing students.

For many students, Muevete USA is a chance to serve neighborhoods where they were raised or that are similar environments. “It will be exciting for the students to put the things they are learning into practice, to give back to an environment that holds their heart,” Dr. Cantu said.

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, one of the country’s leading health sciences universities, ranks in the top 3 percent of all institutions worldwide receiving U.S. federal funding. Research and other sponsored program activity totaled $228 million in fiscal year 2010. The university’s schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced approximately 26,000 graduates. The $744 million operating budget supports eight campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. For more information on the many ways “We make lives better®,” visit

Share This Article!