Meet a Member of the Salud America! National Advisory Committee
At 3:04 a.m. February 4, 1976, a 7.5-magnitude earthquake rocked Guatamala, killing and injuring thousands, leaving millions homeless and burying food stores.
Nancy Butte, startled but unhurt by the quake, knew what to do.
Butte, a Peace Corps volunteer at the time who just happened to be assigned to Guatamala’s Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama, capitalized on her fledgling experience as a nutritionist to set up soup kitchens and coordinate food service at camps for quake victims, a much-needed effort in the disaster response.
"My time in the Peace Corps showed me the importance of public health and care," said Butte, who went on to get degrees in nutritional sciences. "Ever since then, I've strived to improve the health of children through research, education and advocacy."
Dr. Butte has built a strong career in child health and nutrition as an educator and investigator on the Baylor College of Medicine faculty since 1982.
Her research focuses on the environmental and genetic determinants of childhood obesity. She also examines the contribution of food intake, total energy expenditure, basal metabolic rate, substrate utilization, physical activity, and fitness on the development of obesity in children, especially Latino children.
One of her studies is testing the efficacy of a community-centered childhood weight management program among low-socioeconomic-status, ethnically diverse children.
Butte believes that it takes a multi-level approach to respond to the challenges posed by childhood obesity, just as disaster aid also must occur on many levels.
"Addressing socioeconomic barriers at the family, school and community level to healthcare, education, healthy diet and recreation would go a long way to reducing childhood obesity among Latinos," she said.
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