Posts tagged Deborah Parra-Medina

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.

San Antonio Researcher Elected to Council Targeting Pediatric Obesity


Dr. Deborah Parra-Medina

Dr. Deborah Parra-Medina, professor and researcher at the Institute for Health Promotion Research at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, was elected to The Obesity Society’s Pediatric Obesity Section, which supports scientific efforts to understand child obesity and inform its treatment and prevention.

The Obesity Society aims to advance the science-based understanding of the causes, consequences, prevention and treatment of obesity to improve the lives of those affected by creating the leading professional society in the field.

The Society’s Pediatric Obesity Section aims to:

  • promote networking and collaboration among pediatric obesity researchers and practitioners;
  • promote pediatric obesity clinical practice; and
  • increase the national visibility of the pediatric obesity section as a leading resource in research, practice, and advocacy.

“I am excited to contribute to this group and bring attention to the rising obesity epidemic among Latino children,” Dr. Parra-Medina said. “Latino children are part of the largest, fastest-growing racial/ethnic minority groups, but they struggle with disproportionately high obesity rates and related health problems that could endanger the nation’s future health.”

Parra-Medina will serve a two-year term from 2012-14. She will attend The Obesity Society’s annual scientific meetings and engage in group communications.

Parra-Medina has vast experience in health promotion, public health epidemiology, health disparities in cardiovascular and chronic disease, and community-based interventions among under-served and minority populations. At the IHPR, she leads several research projects, including a project that teamed researchers, community leaders and parent to design and implement a text-messaging-infused intervention to boost activity and reduce sedentary behaviors among Latina Girl Scouts ages 11-14 in San Antonio.

She has authored many peer-reviewed articles, is frequently invited to speak at scientific meetings, and is a member of various health groups and coalitions.

Find out more about The Obesity Society here.

Innovation in Preventing Latino Cervical Cancer, Obesity & More


Find the latest in Latino health—from fighting Latina cervical cancer to innovative ways to tackle Latino childhood obesity—in the new E-newsletter from the Institute for Health Promotion Research (IHPR) at The UT Health Science Center at San Antonio.

The IHPR E-newsletter has these stories:

  • Story and Video: Preventing Cervical Cancer in South Texas (Pg 1)
  • Story: How an “Exercise Avoider” Became an “Exercise Promoter” (Pg 2)
  • Story: The Importance of Latino Biospecimens (Pg 2)
  • Story: 20 Studies Tackle Latino Childhood Obesity (Pg 3)
  • Story: Who is Promotora of the Year? (Pg 4)
  • Videos: “Feeding Minds” Series Addresses Hunger, Obesity in Texas (Pg 6)

The E-newsletter is jam-packed with even more info on the latest local and national health disparities-related news, resources and events.

View the E-newsletter or visit us at

The IHPR, led by health disparities research expert Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez, investigates the causes and solutions to the unequal impact of cancer and chronic disease among certain populations, including Latinos, in San Antonio, South Texas and the nation. The IHPR, founded in 2006, uses evidence-guided research, training and community outreach to improve the health of those at a disadvantage due to race/ethnicity or social determinants, such as education or income.

Advances in Latino Cancer Screening, Liver Cancer, Obesity & More


Find the latest in Latino health—from helping underserved Latinos get cancer screening, to exploring reasons why liver cancer is on the rise among Latinos, to helping Latinos pursue doctoral degrees—in the new E-newsletter from the Institute for Health Promotion Research (IHPR) at The UT Health Science Center at San Antonio.

The IHPR E-newsletter has these stories:

  • Story and Video: A New Way to Help Underserved Local Latinos Get Cancer Screens (Pg 1)
  • Story: How Did an IHPR Employee Get a Coveted Internship Using His Christmas Present? (Pg 2)
  • Story: New Research Briefs Examine Obesity in Latino Youths (Pg 3)
  • Videos: New Training Videos on Patient Navigation (Pg 4)
  • Story: Apply by 3/1/12 for Éxito to Get Help Pursuing a Doctoral Degree (Pg 5)
  • Story: Latino Liver Cancer Rates Are on Rise…But Why? (Pg 6)
  • Story: Sugary Drinks 101 for Latinos (Pg 9)

Find much more on local and national health disparities-related news, funding, resources and events by visiting the IHPR’s website.

VIDEO: ‘Be Fit with Friends’ Uses Texts, Facebook to Get Girl Scouts More Physically Active


girl scouts videoFrom selling cookies and earning merit badges to helping researchers fight obesity, Girl Scouts are testing out a new fitness program called “Be Fit With Friends” that lets them text and even spend time on Facebook to get them to be more physically active.

How does it work?

Read more in an Ivanhoe news report about the “Be Fit With Friends” project, which is led by Dr. Deborah Parra-Medina of the Institute for Health Promotion Research at The UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, the team behind SaludToday.

San Antonio Researcher, YMCA Partner to Encourage Healthy Living, Cancer Prevention

Dr. Deborah Parra-Medina

Dr. Deborah Parra-Medina

The Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) recently awarded $265,000 to a researcher from The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio who is working with the YMCA of Greater San Antonio to encourage healthy living and cancer prevention.

Dr. Deborah Parra-Medina, professor in the Health Science Center’s Institute for Health Promotion Research (IHPR), is co-directing “Y Living,” a lifestyle program for cancer prevention and risk reduction.

“This collaborative project uses a community-based, family-focused approach. We’ll work with families to promote physical activity, a balanced diet and increased awareness of the impact of a healthy lifestyle on cancer risk reduction,” Dr. Parra-Medina said. “We’ll provide health education, and use text messages to enroll and motivate them.”

IHPR Director Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez stressed the importance of finding new ways to educate people about their cancer risk and how they might lower it.

“We’re really interested in reaching out to our community through new technologies to provide them with the latest information that they can use to reduce risk factors that might predispose them to cancer,” Dr. Ramirez said.

Texas voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2007 establishing CPRIT and authorizing the state to issue $3 billion in bonds to fund groundbreaking cancer research and prevention programs and services in Texas. CPRIT’s goal is to expedite innovation and commercialization in the area of cancer research and to enhance access to evidence-based prevention programs and services throughout the state.

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