September 14, 2016
Paso del Norte Health Foundation’s Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) grantees in Mexico are working hard to make a measurable difference in health by providing children with healthy meals and physical activity opportunities through programs linked to the school day (before, during, or after school).
In Juárez, Arbol de Vida offers nutritious meals before and after school along with physical activity programming. Ciudadanos Comprometidos con la Paz (CCOMPAZ) provides meals, teaches portion control and healthy food preparation, and offers physical activities for children. In Palomas, Border Partners is providing nutrition and gardening classes, as well as facility development to increase fruit and vegetable intake and physical activity opportunities for children and their families.
Support from the Paso del Norte Institute for Health Living (IHL) helps these partners establish programs based on the best evidence and use state-of-the-art tools to objectively evaluate the impact of the programs. The IHL team works with these organizations to collect data related to the intended health outcomes of the program. For example, a series of physical fitness tests, called FitnessGram, are administered to children at the beginning and end of the program to determine if the physical activity programs are successfully increasing fitness levels. These tests assess the three primary components of physical fitness: cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength, and flexibility.
Additionally, quality physical activity programs are expected to help children maintain or build additional muscle mass. The IHL assesses changes in muscle mass by measuring a child’s body composition before and after participation in a program with technology called bioelectrical impedance analysis. This non-invasive assessment is completed in just a few minutes and simply requires that the child stand on a special scale.
For programs that target improving nutrition through increased fruit and vegetable intake, the IHL uses a “veggie-meter” to assess changes in carotenoids, compounds that scientists use as a biomarker of total fruit and vegetable intake. This methodology, known as reflectance spectroscopy, is also non-invasive and takes less than a minute to complete.
To learn more about the IHL, visit www.pdnihl.org.
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