October 3, 2003

Leading the Fight Against Childhood Obesity

New Program to Link Latinos with Community Health and Fitness Resources in Their Communities

WASHINGTON, DC — On Sept. 29, Hispanic Radio Network (HRN) and Self Reliance Foundation (SRF) launched a new public education campaign to inform the U.S. Latino community about the growing problem of childhood obesity and the need to get children involved in physical activity.

This initiative, called VERB: Ponte las Pilas, will use Spanish-language radio and TV media, and special community events to encourage Latino “tweens,” or youth aged 9-13, to pursue more physically active lifestyles.

As part of this campaign, Latino parents across the country will be able to call SRF’s National Hispanic Resource Helpline at (800) 473-3003 to receive free information about places to go in their communities to get their children and their families involved in physical activity. In addition to making these referrals, many of these community organizations and service providers will be contacted about opportunities to participate in special events and activities related to this important campaign.

The VERB: Ponte las Pilas campaign serves as the Spanish-language portion of the Youth Media Campaign called “VERB. It’s What You Do.” The national, multicultural campaign was launched in June 2002 by the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and is intended to create a movement to promote positive physical activity and displace unhealthy, risky behaviors among 9 to 13-year olds. VERB encourages tweens to participate in at least 60 minutes of daily moderate-to-vigorous physical such as soccer, basketball or swimming with organized clubs or groups or other family members.

To effectively reach out to the Hispanic/Latino community, culturally relevant and bilingual messages were developed. The campaign uses television, radio, billboards, and the Internet to reach parents and tweens across the country. Other components of the campaign include partnerships with media, private companies and community-based organizations in conjunction with research and evaluation efforts.

While childhood obesity is a growing problem in the nation as a whole, it is more prevalent among Hispanics than any other ethnic group, affecting 1 in 5 Hispanic children.  Incorporating physical activity into the lives of our youth is one answer to this grave problem.

“We’re very concerned about this growing threat to our children’s health,” said Arturo Vásquez, Chief Operating Officer for HRN. “It’s an honor to have been selected to participate in this national campaign, and we have developed multiple strategies to connect Latinos in-need with appropriate community service providers that focus on getting children involved in physical activity.”

“We have a vast database of over 12,000 culturally-competent service providers across the country,” said Maite Arce, SRF’s Director of Outreach Services. “When people call our number (800-473-3003), we’ll be able to refer them to local health clinics, recreational centers, Boys & Girls Clubs or other community groups that complement the mission of the VERB campaign.” Arce added, “Many of these groups will be contacted to participate in local VERB activities and events.”

For more information on VERB, parents are encouraged to visit www.VERBparents.com whereas teens should go to http://www.verbnow.com

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