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      Preventing obesity and diabetes

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      Since 1987, the Johnson & Johnson Community Health Care Program has awarded grants to outstanding community-based nonprofit organizations that assist medically underserved populations in the U.S. In 2008, as part of an innovative private-academic partnership with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, two-year grants went to 10 community-based health care organizations working to minimize the impact of chronic illness and obesity-related conditions in five states with a high prevalence of diabetes and obesity.

      One of the beneficiaries was the La Vida Buena (Good Lifeways) program, run by the Mariposa Community Health Center (MCHC) in Nogales, Ariz., which teaches Latino adolescents and their families how healthy lifestyles can reduce their risk of obesity and diabetes. Over the course of the grant, the program provided health education to 88 adolescents and 44 adult family members. Health fairs and other outreach activities reached another 6,000 people, more than 600 of whom received obesity- and diabetes-prevention education, and some 1,300 adolescents received nutrition education.

      A unique aspect of the program was the use of teen health facilitators to help design the curriculum, conduct peer outreach and help deliver program content at schools and throughout the community. Community advocacy focused on developing at least two walking or cycling venues.

      Results showed significant changes in physical activity and diet among La Vida Buena participants. They reported walking and cycling more often, consuming fewer sugary drinks and eating healthier food.

      “Since the program, I tell my mom to join my brother and me when we ride our bikes so she also gets exercise. I also have learned to like and eat vegetables; I put them in my sandwiches all the time,” says Rebecca, who participated in the program.

      The White House contacted Mariposa on behalf of Michelle Obama to learn about the organization’s experience in tackling childhood obesity, and MCHC shared La Vida Buena as a potential model program.

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