Posts tagged Deborah Parra-Medina

Program Helps Hispanic Kids Adopt Healthier Lifestyle, Prevents Excess Weight Gain

Hispanic children who participated in a unique weight-maintenance pilot intervention were more likely to adopt healthy lifestyles, resulting in healthier weights, than children who didn’t participate, according to a UT Health Science Center at San Antonio study in the June 2015 issue of the journal Childhood Obesity.

The pilot study, which paved the way for a new $2.9 million grant to test the intervention on a larger scale through 2019, was implemented with parent-child pairs in a rural clinic in New Braunfels, Texas.

Children who participated were Hispanic, ages 5-14, and obbaseball boyese/overweight.

“Comprehensive behavioral programs have been shown to help these children improve their weight status. However, more efficient interventions that can be done in primary care clinics must be developed for Hispanic children,” said Dr. Deborah Parra-Medina, study author and professor at the Institute for Health Promotion Research at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

The pilot study trained pediatric health care providers and staff to implement a “standard care” intervention with behavioral counseling.

Half of the randomized participants received additional behavioral intervention components, including a face-to-face counseling session with a health educator immediately after the participant’s first visit with the pediatrician and monthly telephone counseling and mailed newsletters for the four-month period. The also had to choose and adopt two of 11 healthy lifestyle strategies, including eating a daily healthy breakfast, not drinking sugary drinks, and limiting eating out.

The 59 families who received additional counseling and education did better than those that did not receive the additional behavioral intervention.

The standard-care children had a 90.2% weight gain while the intervention group had a 70.2% weight gain.

The standard care participants had a 73.8% waist circumference increase while the intervention participants had a 50.9% increase.

“In these studies, we do not promote weight loss with children. We promote a healthier rate of weight gain. Children have the advantage of growing. We hope to slow down their weight gain so they can grow into their weight. We hope they will adopt these healthy lifestyle changes so they will not leave childhood overweight or obese and continue that trajectory into adulthood and become obese adults,” Parra-Medina said.

See details on the new, larger study here.


Latino Researchers among Recipients of $8 Million in Grants for Cancer Research


Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez

Several Latino researchers were among those awarded $7.6 million to prevent cancer this week at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, thanks to the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.

Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez, director of the Institute for Health Promotion Research (IHPR) at the Health Science Center, the team behind SaludToday, was awarded a $1.4 million grant.

Ramirez will develop bilingual, culturally appropriate social and mobile messages and channels to recruit young adult Latino smokers to sign up for a text-message-based tobacco cessation service.

“Smoking is a problem among young adult Latinos in South Texas, but there are no culturally relevant programs that utilize Latinos’ heavy usage of social media and texting to help them quit,” Ramirez said. “If our project goes as planned, it will increase young adult Latinos’ use of tobacco cessation services, and provide a model service that can be cost-effectively replicated across Texas.”

Two other IHPR researchers, Dr. Daisy Morales-Campos and Dr. Deborah Parra-Medina, received a $150,000 grant.

Their project will increase HPV immunization rates using public education and clinic in-reach strategies among young Hispanic males and females in Hidalgo County clinics.

“This program has the potential to reduce cervical cancer incidence and mortality among Hispanic women in Texas’ Lower Rio Grande Valley,” Morales-Campos said.

Also, Dr. Ricardo Aguiar, associate professor of medicine and biochemistry at the Health Science Center, got a $854,740 grant focused on “Inactivating Mutation of D2HGDH Establishes a Novel Link Between Metabolism, Alpha-KG Dependent Dioxygenases and Epigenetic Reprogramming in B Cell Lymphoma.”

Check out a San Antonio Business Journal report on the new grants.

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.”

Latino Health in Focus: Using Counseling, Texting to Help Latino Families Fight Obesity

IHPRspring2014coverFind the latest advances in Latino health—like new studies to reduce obesity in Latino kids, develop cancer-fighting food plans, and navigate Latinos to better health—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: Using Counseling, Texting to Help Latinos Fight Obesity (Pg 1)
  • Profile: Latina Steps Outside her Comfort Zone to Help Others…The Story of the IHPR’s Arely Perez (Pg 2)
  • New Study: Rx for Better Breast Health (Pg 2)
  • New Study: Navegando Salud (Pg 3)
  • Story: The Power of Community Health Educators (Pg 4)
  • Story: Physical Activity is Essential, Not Optional (Pg 6)
  • Report: Bleak Picture for Latino, Other Minority Kids in Public Schools (Pg 8)
  • ‘Lifelines’ Help Reduce Cancer among Minority Populations (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.

New $2.9M Study to Help Obese Latino Kids Eat Better, Play More via Family Counseling, Texting

active playA new obesity management program will use family counseling, text messages and newsletters to control weight and spark healthier eating and physical activity habits in obese/overweight Latino kids, thanks to a five-year $2.9 million federal grant awarded to researchers at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Researchers will develop and test the six-month program among 230 child-parent pairs in three pediatric clinics of the University Health System.

Half the child-parent pairs will get in-clinic counseling on how to make healthy changes.

The other half will get the same in-clinic counseling—plus phone counseling and culturally tailored text messages and newsletters to reinforce changes suggested through counseling.

“We believe kids in the more intensive group will significantly improve their body composition, increase their physical activity levels, consume more fruits and vegetables and fewer sugary drinks, and decrease their sedentary habits, like watching TV,” said Dr. Deborah Parra-Medina, the study’s principal investigator and a professor at the Institute for Health Promotion Research (IHPR) at the UT Health Science Center.

About 39% of Latino kids ages 2-19 are overweight or obese, compared to 32% of all U.S. kids.

Research indicates that Latino kids tend to have more limited access to physical activity options and healthy food, contributing to obesity and related health issues, like diabetes.

Parra-Medina’s new obesity management program will tackle many of these factors.

Counseling will focus on consuming more fruits and vegetables and less sugar-sweetened beverages, limiting screen time and being active at least one hour a day. Strategies to improve eating habits include eating breakfast daily, eating more meals at home, eating meals as a family most days, and allowing the child to self-regulate his/her meals.

Parra-Medina and her colleagues will develop content for culturally tailored newsletters and text messages to reinforce those concepts. Dr. David Akopian of UT San Antonio will implement the text messaging system.

The team will measure the impact of the program on body composition, insulin, glucose and cholesterol levels, and health behavior changes, like fruit and vegetable consumption.

“We think this will become an effective way to reduce and prevent obesity in Hispanic families,” Parra-Medina said.

The study is funded by the National Institutes of Health’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development.

Only 58% of Latinas in South Texas Get the HPV Vaccine

hpv psa redesOnly 58% of Latinas in South Texas’ Lower Rio Grande Valley start the three-dose HPV vaccine, which prevents cervical cancer, compared to 65% across the U.S., studies show.

That’s why researchers are testing strategies to improve HPV vaccination rates.

The Immunization Partnership recently brought together several experts for a community forum to offer some of the latest solutions.

For example, one study is using promotoras (trained community health workers in the Latina community) and student peer educators to engage mothers and daughters in South Texas about the HPV vaccine. This project is directed by Dr. Deborah Parra-Medina, professor at the Institute for Health Promotion Research at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, the team behind SaludToday.

Watch this video for more about the Parra-Medina’s program, called Entre Madre e Hija.

Latina Researcher Wins ‘Health Promotion’ Award

Dr. Deborah Parra-Medina

Dr. Deborah Parra-Medina

Deborah Parra-Medina, Ph.D., a professor at the Institute for Health Promotion Research (IHPR) at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, was given the prestigious Mayhew Derryberry Award from the Public Health Education and Health Promotion section of the American Public Health Association (APHA).

The award, given annually, recognizes outstanding contribution of behavioral scientists to the field of health education, health promotion and/or health communications research or theory.

Parra-Medina has more than two decades of research and interventions in chronic disease prevention with underserved groups, including women, Hispanics, immigrants, youth and financially disadvantaged populations in diverse geographic and community settings.

She will be recognized at a lunch Nov. 5, 2013, at the 141st APHA Annual Meeting in Boston.

“I am honored to receive this award named for Mayhew Derryberry, who worked to instill in scientists the vital role of health education in improving people’s health,” Parra-Medina said. “I wholeheartedly agree that health education and promotion are key components to solve health inequalities that exist among certain populations, including Latinos.”

At the IHPR, Parra-Medina leads several projects, including:

  • Training peer educators to provide navigation support and outreach/education on HPV to Latina mothers and daughters in South Texas;
  • The “Be Fit with Friends” intervention to give Latina Girl Scouts options—from basic fitness equipment to volunteer opportunities to online social media, fitness video games and text messaging—to overcome barriers to physical activity in San Antonio;
  • The “Y Living” program that uses e-mails, text messaging and other activities to help San Antonio families increase healthy living and reduce cancer risk; and
  • Enlace, a promotora-led physical activity to promote moderate-to-vigorous physical activity among Latinas in South Texas.

Parra-Medina’s “Be Fit with Friends” Leader Manual also will receive an award in the “training materials” category at the APHA meeting.

“Deborah’s work is making a meaningful impact on the health of the Latino population in South Texas and beyond,” said IHPR Director Amelie G. Ramirez, Dr.P.H. “She is very deserving of this award and recognition.”

Study: HPV Vaccine Reduces Teen Infections; But Latino Teens Have Low Vaccine Rates

hpv psa redesThe HPV vaccine cut the rate of infections of strains of the human papillomavirus, which causes nearly all cervical cancers, by 56% in teens and young adults, according to a new study in the Journal of Infectious Disease, NBC Latino reports.

The finding has special relevance for Latinas, who have the highest rates of HPV-associated cervical cancer.

Dr. Deborah Parra-Medina, professor at the Institute for Health Promotion Research (IHPR) at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, told NBC Latino that the study was “good news” but that work continues to be needed to promote the vaccine and its three-dose series to prevent cervical cancer among Latinos.

She said only 40% of girls in the predominantly Latino region of South Texas receive the vaccine, falling far short of the federal goal of 80% vaccination:

“We are falling short of the national goal because of lack of access and care, as well as misinformation concerning the vaccine,” notes Dr. Parra-Medina, who runs a community health program in the lower Rio Grande Valley to teach women about cervical cancer prevention through the HPV vaccine. “But it’s important for parents to know that the vaccine is the primary means of preventing HPV. The only way it will work is it we immunize before there’s any chance that the child has had exposure – that’s we are recommending it as early as eleven.”

And there are appropriate ways for parents to discuss HPV prevention with their child, says Dr. Parra-Medina, noting that many parents shy away from discussing sexually transmitted infections with pre-teens and young children.

Try explaining that the vaccine will help prevent them from getting a disease in the future that can cause cancer, she suggests, and end the conversation with “It’s important that I protect you from that risk.”

“Depending on the child’s maturity level and interest, you can get more detailed over time,” says Dr. Parra-Medina.

Please see our Spanish video on why Latinas should consider getting the HPV vaccine.

IHPR Promotora Programs Take Center Stage at White House

Sandra San Miguel de Majors, a research instructor at the Institute for Health Promotion Research (IHPR) at the Health Science Center at San Antonio, touted the use of community health workers—called promotores—to improve people’s health at the Latina Health Policy Briefing for Promotores de Salud on Sept. 26, 2012, at the White House in Washington, D.C.

Sandra San Miguel at a White House policy briefing on Sept. 26, 2012.

The policy briefing, organized by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to review the affordable care act, united key Latino health care providers, researchers, stakeholders and promotores to discuss successful evidenced-based Latino research initiatives utilizing promotores.

The briefing featured Cecilia Muñoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council and Kathleen Sebelius, HHS secretary.

San Miguel participated in a panel featuring promotora research and outreach successes. Representing IHPR director Dr. Amelie Ramirez and IHPR researcher Dr. Deborah Parra-Medina, San Miguel gave an overview on IHPR’s obesity research projects:

  • Salud America! The RWJF Research Network to Prevent Obesity Among Latino Children is a national network of researchers, community leaders, policymakers, and others who are working together to seek environmental and policy solutions to address Latino childhood obesity.
  • Enlace is testing the effectiveness of a culturally appropriate, theory-based intervention to increase moderate to vigorous physical activity among impoverished Latinas in South Texas.
  • The SaludToday social media campaign is stimulating an ongoing discussion among Latino families, community leaders, health researchers and others interested in improving the health of U.S. Latinos.

The White House policy briefing on Sept. 26, 2012.

“We are discovering through our research efforts that promotores play a major role in effectively changing our Latino community perspective toward health and physical activity,” San Miguel said. “In addition to helping to navigate the community and connecting them with the appropriate social support resources, promotores are acting as behavioral change agents.”

Also represented on the promotora panel were the Health Disparities Department at the American Cancer Society, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.

Julie Chavez Rodrigues, associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement and granddaughter of the late Latino rights activist César Chavez, made closing remarks.

“It was an honor for me to represent the IHPR and our team of IHPR promotores, whose passion and dedication enables us to implement successful evidenced based and community based participatory research programs within our Latino communities at a local and national level,” San Miguel said. “It was a wonderful experience; I was humbled to be in such distinguished company.”

Study Uses Promotoras to Increase Physical Activity among Latinas

A Latina gets moving during a group exercise session in South Texas as part of a pilot test of the Enlace study last year.

Latinas are less physically active than Latino men and are less likely to meet physical activity guidelines than other population groups.

This inactivity may lead to obesity and associated conditions like diabetes and heart disease.

To improve Latinas’ health, a new five-year, $3.48 million study will use promotoras—trained community health workers—to lead culturally appropriate group education and exercise sessions for Latinas in community centers in South Texas’ Lower Rio Grande Valley, says study leader Dr. Deborah Parra-Medina, professor at the Institute for Health Promotion Research (IHPR) in the School of Medicine of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Participants also will get newsletters and telephone counseling.

The effort, called Enlace (which means to “connect” or “join” in English) and funded by the National Institutes of Health, aims to increase Latinas’ physical activity rates.

“The idea behind Enlace is that, through this promotora intervention, Latinas will gain an otherwise-unavailable layer of social support to overcome barriers to activity and make positive behavioral changes—namely that Latinas engage in 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity on five or more days a week,” Dr. Parra-Medina said.

Dr. Parra-Medina and her colleagues had identified several barriers that influence physical activity behaviors among Latinas in South Texas: the dominance of work and family responsibilities, time, social isolation, lack of social support and personal motivation, access issues (e.g., program costs, lack of childcare and transportation), neighborhood safety and other factors.

For the new Enlace study, Dr. Parra-Medina’s team will recruit 704 Latinas ages 18-64 who do not meet federal physical activity guidelines from eight community resource centers in impoverished areas in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

Half the women will be randomly assigned to the Enlace intervention, which includes 16 once-a-week promotora-led group exercise sessions; and 24 weeks of a maintenance intervention with monthly promotora-delivered newsletters and telephone counseling.

The other half will serve as a control group.

Dr. Parra-Medina’s team will compare the two groups based on minutes per week of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, physical fitness, wand other factors.

“We hypothesize that Latinas in the intervention group will significantly increase their levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, compared to those in the control group,” Dr. Parra-Medina said.

Read more here.

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