June 27, 2003

San Diego County Designates June as Latino Health Awareness Month in Response to Latino Health Crisis

Recognizing the startling health risks facing the local Latino community, representatives from the California Latino 5 a Day Campaign and dignitaries such as Congressman Bob Filner, Councilmember Mary Salas, Supervisor Ron Roberts, Mayor Dick Murphy, presented a resolution to the San Diego county declaring June 2003 as Latino Health Awareness Month in San Diego. This resolution supports the state proclamation passed by the California Legislature and presented to the Campaign by Assemblymember Sarah Reyes. Among California Latinos, heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes account for nearly 60 percent of all deaths. In addition, 45 percent of California Latino adults are overweight and more than one-quarter are obese.

“The Latino community in San Diego is facing a health crisis resulting in part from poor nutrition and a lack of physical activity,” said Los Tucanes de Tijuana. “Through Latino Health Awareness Month and the exemplary work of the California Latino 5 a Day Campaign, we are sending a message to San Diego Latinos that in order to enjoy healthy lives and prevent chronic diseases, it is imperative they choose nutritious foods every day, especially fruits and vegetables.”

The resolution was presented during the San Diego county Fair in Del Mar in the grandstands before Los Tucanes de Tijuana concert. At the event, California Latino 5 a Day Campaign representatives also announced the results of a four-month study that highlighted the Campaign’s ability to improve fruit and vegetable consumption among California Latinos through the media and through culturally appropriate activities conducted at Latino festivals, farmers’/flea markets, and grocery stores. The study revealed that Spanish-speaking Latinos living in one California community reported an increase in fruit and vegetable consumption from 4.4 servings to 6.0 servings per day, a daily increase of more than 1.5 servings. The study also showed that the more Latinos in this community were exposed to the California Latino 5 a Day Campaign, the more their fruit and vegetable consumption increased and the more they were aware of the 5 a Day message, desired to eat more fruits and vegetables, and intended to eat 5 a Day. The California Latino 5 a Day Campaign was created to reduce the risks of chronic diseases by empowering Latino adults to consume 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables and be physically active every day.

Commenting on the study, Desiree Backman, Dr.P.H., R.D., manager of the California 5 a Day Campaign and principal investigator of the research, said, “the study results we’ve announced today demonstrate that the California Latino 5 a Day Campaign is truly effective in producing positive changes in fruit and vegetable consumption among our target audience. The study emphasizes the importance of designing campaigns to appeal to the cultural needs, norms, and lifestyles of the Latino population. To achieve the best possible results, outreach approaches must reach Latinos in their homes, where they shop, where they eat, where they gather with other community members, and where they celebrate their rich cultural heritage.”

Also during the event, the California Latino 5 a Day Campaign’s mural artwork, which has been travelling throughout the state as a mobile billboard in celebration of California’s first Latino Health Awareness Month, was placed on display as a banner for viewing by the local community. The original piece of art was commissioned by the Campaign to celebrate the contributions of the Latino community in California and inspire Latinos to live active, healthy lifestyles.

“We are urging California Latinos to eat healthier and exercise more, especially during the summer months, when both fresh produce and daylight are plentiful. We’re very lucky to have an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, especially during this time of year,” said John Achuff from Congressman Bob Filner’s office. “But even canned, dried or frozen fruits and vegetables can provide essential vitamins and minerals necessary to have a healthy diet,” said Mary Darling from Councilmember Mary Salas’ office.

The California Latino 5 a Day Campaign, which is part of the California Nutrition Network for Healthy, Active Families, is a public health initiative led by the California Department of Health Services and administered by the Public Health Institute in cooperation with the National 5 A Day Program of the National Cancer Institute. Its purpose is to empower Latino adults and their families to consume 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables and engage in at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day. The Campaign also works with communities throughout California to create environments where these behaviors are socially supported and easy to do. The 5 a Day and physical activity objectives are designed to reduce the risks of chronic diseases, especially cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

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