About the Healthy Hearts Program
Childhood obesity has become a serious concern in the United States. Various studies have demonstrated the consequences, both immediate and long-term, on children’s health and well-being. Health effects include cardiovascular disease, with risk factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem. The most serious consequences are that obese children are more likely to become obese adults. Obese children, as early as 12 years old, are being treated for health conditions previously seen in adults 40 and over.
Therefore, the Healthy Hearts Program was developed and written by Liliana Quintero to teach students in 3rd through 5th grade about the heart and the importance of healthy nutrition and exercise. Through lectures and hands-on activities, this six-session program aims to prevent childhood obesity by empowering students with the knowledge needed to make healthier decisions and to become role models to their own families as stewards of good health.
Every class includes hands-on activities, exercise, and team activities. Some of the topics developed include: how the heart works, how sugar and fat can either be enemies or allies of our health, and how exercise can be fun. This program has been given during the school day, which makes the schools’ role critical. By providing opportunities for students to learn and practice healthy habits, together we can combat childhood obesity!
Aurora Leon has been in charge of organizing material for the Healthy Hearts Program and has also been involved as an assistant during the program.
Olivia Hernandez started as a volunteer where she felt a passion. As the NIHHC’s Project Leader, she is responsible for the BMI data collection and analysis, and has also served as a Healthy Hearts Program assistant.
Regarding the Healthy Hearts Program, Liliana has been involved since the beginning by writing the curriculum and forming the initial research team consisting of representatives from IU Bloomington, IMHC, IUSB, and Notre Dame. She has created the networking of different agencies, facilitators, partners, and staff at the local and state level that believe in the potential of the program. She has also coordinated the training sessions for the new facilitators. In addition, she has been supervising the collection of data and the delivery of the classes by each of the facilitators, co-facilitators, and assistants to maintain fidelity to the curriculum and program logistics.
Luz Perez, the NIHHC’s bookkeeper, has been instrumental in the generation of statistics for the program, collecting BMI data, and serving as a Healthy Hearts Program facilitator/assistant since the fall of 2015.
Estefania Garces, the NIHHC’s office manager, has also been involved with the program collecting BMI data, editing the Healthy Hearts curriculum, and serving as a Healthy Hearts Program facilitator/assistant since the first pilot of the program in January of 2013.
Juan Carlos Diaz Quezada is one of the NIHHC’s Healthy Hearts Program facilitators. He recently taught the program’s curriculum to the 4th graders at Woodland Elementary School in Elkhart, IN during the 2016-17 school year. He is also a NIHHC board member as well as a Navigator and Certified Application Counselor at Maple City Health Care Center. His work focuses on helping community members navigate state and government based insurance with an emphasis on advocacy. He holds close the values of the center which are integration, empowerment and relationships of the community.
He is also a member of the grassroots organization ComUNIDAD based in Goshen, Indiana. The goals of this group are to advocate for and integrate Latinos into the community in sectors such as education, politics, business etc. Through this organization he has learned that cooperation, relationships and support are essential for change in a community.
He believes that in order for our communities to continue with progress we need to focus on health, education, equality and empowerment for all. That if those who are marginalized continue to be forgotten then we have forgotten who we are as a community. We must advocate for and love each other because we are all one family regardless of differences.
Barb Welty also works at the Elkhart County Health Department, but has also been a great asset to the NIHHC’s Healthy Hearts Program. Her experience in working with children can be seen through her natural ability to connect with students of the program.
Jessica G. Alvarez is a graduate from the University of Saint Francis with an Associates in Liberal Arts. She is currently a senior at Indiana University South Bend pursuing a Bachelors in Health Science with a concentration in Health Promotions. She has also been involved with the Healthy Hearts Program, and is driven by her passion to instill the values of healthy nutrition and exercise in young children in order to mold health-conscious adults.
Christine Faust, an employee for the Elkhart County Health Department, has also been involved with the Healthy Hearts program as a facilitator of the curriculum since 2015.