School lunches are healthier now – but do kids like them? Study says Yes.


school meal BTGWe all know that healthier school meals improve kids’ diets. But did you know kids’ like them?

The first national surveys of school leaders show that the majority of students like the new healthier lunches schools are offering after USDA’s improved nutrition standards went into effect in fall 2012.

This study is done by Bridging the Gap,  a nationally recognized research program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation dedicated to improving the understanding of how policies and environmental factors affect diet, physical activity and obesity among youth, as well as youth tobacco use.

In elementary school the study finds that there hasn’t been a significant impact on participation in the school lunch program. Sixty‐five percent of public elementary schools reported no overall change in the number of students purchasing lunch, 19 percent reported an increase in student participation, and 17 percent reported a decrease.

In middle and high schools it was found that by the spring a majority of the students generally liked the new meals to at least some extent (70% of middle school students; 63% of high school students).

The generally positive reactions to updated school meal nutrition standards may indicate they are a promising strategy to improve the diets of children and adolescents. Policymakers should continue to assist elementary and secondary school officials with implementation of the updated nutrition standards.


Find the July 2014 Research Brief here.

And find more information about how healthy snacks affect Latino childhood obesity, visit the Growing Healthy Change platform!


A Candid Conversation About Childhood Obesity with TEDMED


TedMedThe national childhood obesity rate has leveled off, but rates are still far too high – and racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities persist with more than 39% of Latino kids overweight or obese. What needs to happen to show bigger results, faster?

Join leaders from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, American Heart Association, City of Philadelphia Government, UCSF School of Medicine, & AcademyHealth for a TEDMED Great Challenges Hangout about childhood obesity, and how we can all make sure ALL children can grow up at a healthy weight.

How do we make sure all children can grow up at a healthy weight? What are some of the underlying environmental and societal causes that must be addressed? What could corporate, community and policy leaders do to further address this critical public health issue?

Join health & research leaders from across the country for a TEDMED Great Challenges Hangout about childhood obesity.

On July 22, some of the nation’s top health and research leaders will take measure of the progress and challenges in our ongoing struggle with childhood obesity.

Join them here for “TEDMED Great Challenges: A Candid Conversation About Childhood Obesity.”

San Antonio Researcher Named to U.S. Minority Health Committee

Dr. Cynthia Mojica

Dr. Cynthia Mojica

Dr. Cynthia Mojica, a researcher at the Institute for Health Promotion Research (IHPR) at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, is among five new appointees to the Advisory Committee on Minority Health for the Office of Minority Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The 10-member committee advises the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health on improving the health of racial and ethnic minority populations.

Members are appointed by the secretary for their minority health expertise.

Mojica, who will serve on the committee through 2018, has extensive experience conducting research in cancer prevention and control. She has made strides to increase cancer screening and diagnostic follow-up, as well as obesity prevention, with an emphasis on community and clinic-based intervention development among ethnic minority and underserved populations.

“I am honored to serve on this committee and am looking forward to offering my perspectives on how to best increase the health of Latino and other minority populations,” Mojica said.

Mojica also has held leadership positions in the Latino Caucus of the American Public Health Association. She was recently appointed to the Diversity Committee in the School of Medicine at the Health Science Center, and is a member of the Cancer Prevention and Population Science research program of the Cancer Therapy and Research Center, the National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center at the Health Science Center.

She is recipient of the W.K. Kellogg Fellowship in Health Policy Research and the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Service Research Award from the National Cancer Institute.

Learn more about the federal committee and its other new members here.

Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez: Eating to Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

Women who eat large quantities of red meat may have a higher risk of breast cancer, according to a recent Harvard study.

Women who eat large quantities of red meat may have a higher risk of breast cancer, according to a recent Harvard study.

Research is proving that, if we eat the right food, it can help fight cancer.

But, what foods fight cancer? What foods don’t? Are there such things as healthy — and tasty — meals and snacks?

Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez dives into this issue in a new post on the Susan G. Komen for the Cure national blog on breast cancer issues.

Dr. Ramirez is professor and director of the Institute for Health Promotion Research at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, the team behind SaludToday.

Here’s an excerpt:

Previous studies have shown that eating fruits and vegetables may slightly lower the risk of some types of breast cancer. Carotenoids, a natural orange-red food pigment found in foods like carrots and squash, have been linked to a reduced risk of breast cancer, and researchers are also investigating the effect that dairy, meat, folate (found in leafy greens) and other foods can have on breast cancer risk and development.

While these studies are promising, more research needs to be done to answer our questions about diet and cancer prevention.

Susan G. Komen has invested more than $20 million into research that is addressing these questions and others about the relationship between diet and exercise and breast cancer prevention. Whether it’s research into phytoestrogens (plant estrogens present in soy and some herbs) or the benefits of a diet rich in fish oil, Komen’s research investment in this area spans diet, exercise and obesity.

My own research in the San Antonio area has focused on diet as well. With funding from Komen, my team and I recently launched a new study to teach breast cancer survivors how certain foods may reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence as well as the risk of developing other cancers.

Our study, Rx for Better Breast Health, will randomly assign breast cancer survivors to one of two groups. Each study group will get different cancer nutrition tools, possibly including cooking demonstrations by Chef Iverson Brownell, who specializes in creating healthy, tasty culinary recipes.

Read the full post here.

Go here to find out more about Dr. Ramirez’ new Rx study, or call 210-562-6579 to see if you qualify.

Study: A Look into Chronic Disease and Hispanics in the U.S.


July15NCLRNational Council of La Raza (NCLR) has released a new report on July 15, 2014 on Latnio Health. The report, “An Inside Look at Chronic Disease and Health Care among Hispanics in the United States,” examines the challenges in preventing and managing chronic diseases in the Latino community.

With support from Boehringer Ingelheim and in partnership with public health consulting firm John Snow, Inc.(JSI), NCLR gathered information about the rates of chronic disease among the Hispanic community, the challenges and motivators faced in prevention and management efforts and the roles of health care providers and community resources in helping Latinos handle health issues and chronic conditions.

The report is based on written surveys and focus groups of patients at community-based health centers across the country that belong to the NCLR Affiliate Network.

The study boasts three major findings; there is high prevalence of chronic disease in Hispanic communities, there is often inadequate chronic disease management available to those who need it, and surveyed participants reported many challenges to receiving proper care.

To read more about the study and it’s finding, visit NCLR’s website and download the report.

How to Tackle Mental Health Issues in Spanish-Speaking Communities


More than 16% of Hispanic adults experienced a mental illness during the previous year, and communities of color are more likely to lack access to care to meet their behavioral health needs, according to federal data.

This makes mental health awareness important in Hispanic communities.

That’s why the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health offer new Spanish-language resources:

  • The website en Español offers access to resources and information about prevention, treatment, and recovery from mental health conditions.
  • The Toolkit for Community Conversations About Mental Health (Diálogos comunitarios acerca de la salud mental) helps communities start vital conversations about mental health. The toolkit includes: an Information Brief, a Discussion Guide, a Planning Guide, and the “Mental Health in my Community” infographic.

These materials were developed based on feedback and input from partners and communities across the country following the June 2013 National Conference on Mental Health to highlight avenues for wellness and recovery.


San Antonio Researcher to Create New Tool to Persuade Latino Men to Get Screened for Colorectal Cancer

Photo via the American Cancer Society (

Photo via the American Cancer Society (

Latinos are less likely than non-Latino whites to get screened for colorectal cancer, and are more likely to be diagnosed at harder-to-treat stages.

Latino men, specifically, have a 17% lower screening rate than non-Latino men.

That’s why Dr. Cynthia Mojica, a researcher at the Institute for Health Promotion Research at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, is creating a cultural- and language-relevant print-based tool to persuade Latino men to get colorectal cancer screening.

Mojica’s efforts are fueled by a new grant from the Health Science Center’s Mentored Research Career Development (KL2) Program in Clinical and Translational Science.

“The grant award will give me training, mentorship and research support to help me bring the community into the research process to help create a tool that can change their behavior and lead them to get screened,” Mojica said.

As part of the award, Mojica will go through training workshops, coursework, professional and programmatic activities, and conferences.

She’ll also have assistance from an experienced mentorship team:

  • Dr. Deborah Parra-Medina, a professor at the IHPR at the Health Science Center;
  • Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez, professor and director of the IHPR at the Health Science Center;
  • Dr. Sally Vernon, professor of behavioral sciences and epidemiology at The University of Texas-Houston School of Public Health;
  • Dr. Barbara Turner, professor of medicine at the Health Science Center; and
  • Dr. Janna Lesser, associate professor of nursing at the Health Science Center.

For her research, Mojica will: identify and evaluate existing health-decision tools on colorectal cancer screening, such as brochures; convene an expert panel to review the best elements of existing tools; convene focus groups to determine how to tailor a tool for Latino men; and create a new tool that melds the best existing tool elements with cultural and linguistic tailoring to increase Latino men’s screening behaviors.

She will then submit for a larger-scale grant to try out the new tool.

“If successful, this new tool will provide a culturally relevant, language-appropriate tool to convince more Latino men to get screened for colorectal cancer,” Mojica said. “Colorectal cancer screening is clearly not a priority for many men, but it can save lives.”

Advances in Sports for Kids, Healthier Food at Meat Markets, and Mobilizing Latina Moms



…get sports in public elementary schools? (Page 1)

…find the latest obesity solutions? (Page 2)

…add veggies to a meat market? (Page 3)

…help mobilize Latina moms? (Page 6)

Find out in the latest Salud America! E-newsletter.

Salud America! The RWJF Research Network to Prevent Obesity Among Latino Children is a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The program aims to unite and increase the number of Latino stakeholders engaged in community change and research on environmental and policy solutions to the epidemic. The network is directed by the Institute for Health Promotion Research at The UT Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Don’t forget to share your stories at our new Salud America! Growing Healthy Change website.

We can help you get a national audience for your work!

Aspiring Latina Doctor Works to Improve the Health of Latinas

Jennifer Garcia-Davalos (bottom-left), helped with the BFF support group for young breast cancer survivors as part of her internship at the IHPR. Her mentor was IHPR researcher Sandra San Miguel (bottom-right).

Jennifer Garcia-Davalos (bottom-left), helped with the BFF support group for young breast cancer survivors as part of her internship at the IHPR. Her mentor was IHPR researcher Sandra San Miguel (bottom-right).

Laredo native Jennifer Garcia-Davalos grew up on the Texas-Mexico border, where the mostly Latino population suffers high rates of obesity, diabetes, and certain cancers.

She has always wanted to help reduce those disparities.

That’s why Garcia-Davalos, an aspiring physician and a master’s-degree student in public health at The UT School of Public Health, interned at the Institute for Health Promotion Research (IHPR) at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Over the past year, she helped the IHPR conduct research, mobilize community outreach, and inform, educate, and empower health in Latino communities.

“My internship at the IHPR gave me tools needed to succeed in my graduate studies and my future plans in the health and medical fields,” Garcia-Davalos said. “As a future physician, I want to engage in public health initiatives so that I may effectively work with other professionals to enhance the quality of life of our communities.”

At the IHPR, Garcia-Davalos was instrumental in helping develop the Breast Friends Forever (BFF) support group for young women with breast cancer.

She participated in monthly BFF group meetings, compiled members’ stories, developed a manual of group operations, gave out educational information, and used social media to stimulate communication among group members.

“I learned that the simple act of support and kindness can make all the difference in a survivor’s fight against breast cancer,” she said.

Garcia-Davalos now is taking her IHPR experience with her to the Ross University School of Medicine.

She will study primary care medicine.

Sandra San Miguel, a research instructor at the IHPR and Garcia Davalos’ mentor, said she will make a “great physician.”

“It’s a privilege to mentor young students like Jennifer, expose them to public health and the positive impact that they too can have on our Latino population,” San Miguel said.

Latino Health in Focus: Progress in the Fight Against Breast, Liver, and Colorectal Cancer


IHPRSummer2014Page01Find the latest advances in Latino health—studies on liver cancer rates and colorectal cancer screening, and a promotora’s heartwarming story of survival—in the IHPR Noticias E-newsletter.

IHPR Noticias has lots of info on the latest local and national health disparities-related news, resources and events:

  • Story: A Latina Cancer Survivor Makes a Career of Helping Others through Cancer (Pg. 1)
  • Profile: An Aspiring Doctor, Jennifer Garcia-Davalos, Works for Latino Health (Pg. 2)
  • Study: South Texas Latinos Have Nation’s Highest Liver Cancer Rates (Pg. 3)
  • Study: Local Researcher Hopes to Increase Colorectal Cancer Screening (Pg. 4)
  • Story: How to Fix Huge Lack of Hispanics in Clinical Trials (Pg. 6)
  • Story: Food Trucks—Healthy or Junk Food for Latinos (Pg. 7)
  • Resource: Toolkit to Reach Latinas with Breast Cancer Info (Pg. 9)

IHPR Noticias is a quarterly publication from the Institute for Health Promotion Research (IHPR) at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, the team behind SaludToday.

Email us at if you have story ideas.

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