UTRGV studying obesity reducing curriculum in elementary school

Local News

EDINBURG, Texas (ValleyCentral) – Texas has the eighth highest childhood obesity rate, and Hispanic children are among the highest rates in the state.

Researchers at UTRGV are working to change that.

“Diabetes was a Tio, Tia, Abuelito, Abuelita disease, those were grandparent diseases,” said Dr. Zasha Romero, Associate Professor for UTRGV Department of Health and Human Performance. “Now a days, we’re seeing 2nd students walking into our classrooms with full blow diabetes.”

But in order to combat childhood obesity here in the valley, researchers at UTRGV received a $2.8 million grant from the Texas Department of Health and Human Services.

This new grant will go to implementing the Bienestar coordinated school curriculum in valley school districts.

The Bienestar Health Program is an education program aimed to prevent diabetes in children.

The program is geared towards communities with high Hispanic populations and has four components:

  • Health and physical education
  • After-school health clubs
  • Family activities
  • Food service component.  

Once the school curriculum is stated within valley schools, Romeros said researchers will then study the impact on students.

“Half of those schools which is 28 schools in ISDs are going to receive the Bienestar health curriculum, half are not,” Romero said.”Throughout the year we are going to have data collection periods to collect from these from over 2,500 children.”

Students from Pre-K to 1st Grade from both PSJA ISD and La Joya ISD will be the focus of this study for the next three years.

With this new curriculum, Romero said teachers will be able to teach healthier lifestyles and physical activity in a unique way.

“They’re going to have their children learn through dance through song, through fun activities to play,” Romero said. So some of them are going to be working on their bodies about physical fitness and not even knowing that they are learning.”

But throughout the study, Romero said it’s not just about publishing results. In the end, it’s about changing children’s life.”

“They don’t have to become a statistic of chronic illness if they start learning early,” Romero said. ” So, we want to plant that seed early.”

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