Oct 30, 2013

Latino Youth: A health challenge requiring two strategies

     Television is the next source of information for Latino youth outside of
school. Knowing this, beverage and fast-food companies are heavily targeting
them with advertising. But who is at fault?

By Adrian Perez, SacLatino Magazine

    Laws, rules, policies and even a spanking cannot change the desires of our taste buds.  End result - obesity.  A disease stricken condition that can be deterred through education and exercise.
    When Latino immigrants arrive, their eating habits combined with walking regularly keeps them at a healthy level.  Once they begin to assimilate, there is more sitting and quick trips to fast food joints.  This is especially true among second and third generation Latinos.  But, there is another critical issue that occurs, the propensity to use illicit drugs.

We are what we eat!

    Recent immigrants have a tendency to be much healthier than those acclimated to the

American way of life because of their eating and life habits.  This includes eating cultural foods that include vegetables, nuts, and fruits.  There is also a tendency for them to eat less red meat and more chicken or fish.  And, they walk more than those who’ve acclimated or were born in the U.S. However, once the children become more acclimated, they are influenced by television commercials and friends to eat foods that are neither cultural in nature or healthy.  In addition, they sit more, increasing their chances of becoming overweight.    Today, more than one in five youth between the ages of 10 and 19 in the United States is Hispanic.  By 2020, that figure will rise to approximately one in four and, by 2040, nearly one in three adolescents will be Hispanic.
    Along with that increase are the rates of obesity, which are higher for Hispanic adolescents than for black and white U.S. adolescents.  Hispanic parents cite a greater number of barriers to their children’s physical activity than do white parents.  Also, Hispanic high school students are more likely than their white peers to spend three or more hours a day watching TV, and are less likely than their white or black peers to be part of an organized sports team.
    Overall, there are dozens of studies that clearly demonstrate a need for parents and adolescents to take action.  The primary key is education.  The more knowledge the parent and child has, the less likely poor nutritional and exercise habits will form.
    Poor education creates an additional ill, low income.  The correlation between the two have also linked adolescent mental behavior and drug abuse.  National surveys reveal that many Hispanic teens struggle with mental health and substance abuse issues.

    A study conducted by the Partnership at Drugfree.org found that Hispanic teens are more likely to engage in substance abuse. Perhaps the most revealing was that over half (54 percent) of the Hispanic teens surveyed reported they had used an illegal drug.  The drug of choice - marijuana (47 percent.)  Other drugs included Ecstacy (13 percent) and cocaine (13 percent.)
    The study alludes to several reasons why Hispanic teens are more prone to use drugs, and include:  Nearly two-thirds are offered drugs at least once in their lifetime, with 42 percent offered drugs at their own school -- so much for Zero Tolerance; 24 percent reported seeing frequent drug use in their community;  and, perhaps a key culprit is the lack of taking a strong stance by the parent.
    The study also looked at parental attitude and guidance for Hispanic teens and found the following:  21 percent of Hispanic parents thought it was okay for their teen to smoke marijuana; 28 percent felt it was safer for their teen to use Rx drugs to get high than using street drugs; 28 percent have difficulty enforcing rules against drug abuse; and 35 percent of Hispanic parents feel there is little they can do to help their teens abstain from using illicit drugs.
    “This new study shows a clear need for us, as Hispanic parents, to educate ourselves about the dangers posed by drug and alcohol abuse within our own community and to set clear rules for our kids,” said Doctora Isabel, a radio psychologist who dispenses advice on crucial issues affecting Hispanic families on her popular live, call-in talk show, “Doctora Isabel” on Univision Radio. “Parents are the biggest influence over the decisions our kids make and we need to talk frequently with them about the risks of drug and alcohol abuse. They will listen!”
    Another are of concern is depression among Hispanic adolescents.  Hispanic male and female adolescents were more likely to feel depressed than their black and white peers, and a higher percentage of female Hispanic teens felt suicidal.
    This area of study is still being developed, but a recent, and key, finding it the stress Hispanic adolescents experience living in two cultures.  Moreover, the stresses experienced by American-born to immigrant Hispanics. 
    If you know of an adolescent who is in need of guidance, reach out and offer a hand.  There are numerous programs that can help guide the child and parent to living a healthy life.  - SacLatino


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