Written by Robert Waddell
A child sits in front of a television screen, watching a show or playing video games. During this inactivity, the child munches on nutrient poor food and snacks on high fructose soda. While this Latino child is considered chubby, he’s not thought of as fat or at a high risk for high blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes. But, he is.
In a new book, “At Risk: Latino Children’s Health,” Dr. Rafael Perez-Escamilla and Hugo Melgar-Quinonez have collected finely researched essays on the causes and the possible preventative cures for childhood malnutrition.
Perez-Escamilla writes in his introduction that “At Risk: Latino Children’s Health examines key maternal, child and youth issues that affect the wellbeing of our very diverse Latino Communities….Our intention in this book is not only to discuss the existence of major challenge and problems but also to…provide examples and suggestions with each chapter as to which policies and programmatic approaches may be relevant for improving the health and wellness of Latino children.”
“At Risk: Latino Children’s Health” therefore identifies the problem of health difficulties and proposes solutions to the localized problem. Working as policy study, published by Arte Publico Press this year, the first chapter on environment says that a child’s location, more than genetics, plays a great role in obesity and health.
As with any visit to the doctor, health and wellbeing boils down to diet and exercise. Children, the multi-layered study found, that Latino children need quality food, a safe environment, good schooling, less TV and more physical activity. Sometimes parents who went without as child will encourage their own children to have as much as possible or have what the parents never had, which may be well intentioned, the study found, but can be detrimental to a child’s well being.
The study also found that proper pre-natal care was a contributing factor to a child’s health. And television contributes to a sedentary lifestyle connected to decreased physical activity, and consuming “high calorie, nutrient-poor foods such as high-fat and high- sugar snack foods, fast foods, soda…”
While there are many levels and causes for Latino children’s health problems, the study found that there are also multi-pronged approaches to healthy living and multiple solutions to creating an environment of wellness.
“…improving and maintaining the health of Latino children requires a multi-level culturally appropriate comprehensive approach that takes into account the socio-economic context of the communities where children from this ethnic group live and grow.”
Health awareness and the work of health educators come into play especially in poorer Latino communities with little access to health care. Not only does this dense policy analysis locate the problems that contribute to a Latino’s poor health but show ways of ameliorating the problems suggested. This is a fact heavy book that is not easily accessible to the general public. However, in a comprehensive and erudite way “At Risk” takes on the daunting task of realizing the problems and tackling solutions.
With the rise in health issues, especially stemming from obesity, “At Risk” makes a point of diagramming and outlining the causes, effects and solutions to a growing and costly national health crisis. This study tries to push back the tide with a sense that knowing and understanding is better than the alternative. And when the lights have been turned on then only can individuals, families and communities can create a plan to improve the lives and health of all Latino children.