Water Champions Push H2O for Latino Kids, Families


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Water isn’t magic, but it can help you stay hydrated, control calories, and fuel muscles.

But Latino kids don’t drink enough water.

In fact, Latino kids drink less plain water and more sugary drinks than white kids. That is according to research by Salud America!, a national Latino childhood obesity prevention network at UT Health San Antonio.

That’s why we are spotlighting heroes who work hard to push water for Latino kids and families!

Praxina Guerra: 5th-Grader Gets Hydration Station in School

San Antonio fifth-grader Praxina Guerra and her mentor, Cathy Lopez, are true Salud Heroes when it comes to creating a healthy school environment.

Praxina Guerra Water 5th Grader
Praxina Guerra

Praxina, spurred on by Lopez, joined the city’s San Antonio Student Ambassador program and created a student club to encourage students to adopt healthier practices.

They wanted to give students access to water through the school day at Five Palms Elementary School in South San Antonio Independent School District.

So Lopez looked online and found hydration stations, which are filtered water fountains for refillable water bottles.

Praxina and Lopez worked hard to seek funds for a hydration station, and got one.

Although Praxina has moved on to middle school, the hydration station remains “an amazing asset for the school” and it motivates students to bring water bottles and drink more water, said Stacey Estrada, a school board member.

Alma Galvez: “Rethink Your Drink” Bilingual Campaign

Amid a growing Latino population in Minneapolis, Minn., Alma Galvez saw heavy sugary drink consumption in kids in her role as a community health worker with and in St. Mary’s Health Clinics.

Alma Galvez Minnesota Water Advocate
Alma Galvez

In 2013, Galvez and others with St. Mary’s Clinics learned the Minneapolis Health Department was working on a campaign to reduce sugar consumption.

They partnered with the health department and culturally tailored the Rethink your Drink, Every Sip Counts campaign for the local Latino population.

That included doing bilingual educational events, using Latino role models to spread water-promoting messages, and adding a Spanish tagline, Sabes lo que bebes? Piénsalo dos veces! (Do you know what you are drinking? Think twice!).

“People don’t want you to tell them to stop drinking soda. But when you show them how much sugar is in their 20-ounce bottled soda they get really impressed by how much sugar is in their soda, and they always want to know how to stop, because sometimes it is not easy,” Galvez explained.

Juana Flores: A Role Model for Water’s Weighty Benefits

Juana Flores, a community health worker with Border Partners near El Paso, Texas, began feeling short of breath a few months ago. She also felt sluggish and tired all the time.

juana flores
Juana Flores

After years of teaching healthy living, Flores took her own advice and started regular physical activity (walking, running, attending yoga and Zumba classes), gave up pork and red meat, and added more veggies, according to a news report by Border Partners.

Water was her secret weapon—six liters a day.

Today, after dropping 38 pounds and improving her cholesterol levels in five months, Flores is a real-life role model for the benefits of healthy eating and drinking water.

“Juana does so much good for the community. She has taught nutrition to Palomas families and children for the past two years with the support of HEAL grant funding from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation,” according to the report. “Board member Polly Edmunds calls Juana Flores a ‘mainstay of Border Partners’ progress in Palomas.'”

Juana adds:

“Fight for your health; fight for your life! It’s so important.”

Dr. Marta Katalenas: No-Soda Resolution for Patients

Growing up in Spain, Dr. Marta Katalenas ate home-cooked meals made with fresh ingredients.

dr. marta katalenas austin texas
Dr. Marta Katalenas

When Katalenas moved to the U.S. in 1984 to learn English and become a pediatrician, she saw a different way of life that included way more juices and sugary drinks.

As she began her practice at the Pediatric Center of Round Rock, Texas, she said she saw a growing association between kids drinking too much sugar and being overweight.

Katalenas decided that if she was going to help Austin-area parents set their kids on a path of health, she needed to get the whole community involved in promoting water and reducing sugary drink consumption—so she made reducing sugary drinks part of her new monthly health challenge for families.

“Sometimes psychologically if you know something’s going to be just for a limited amount of time you are more likely to engage,” she said. “And they say if you do something for 30 days it forms to part of your life; that’s what my hope is.”

By The Numbers By The Numbers



of Latino kids have had a sugary drink by age 2 (vs. 45% of white kids)

This success story was produced by Salud America! with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The stories are intended for educational and informative purposes. References to specific policymakers, individuals, schools, policies, or companies have been included solely to advance these purposes and do not constitute an endorsement, sponsorship, or recommendation. Stories are based on and told by real community members and are the opinions and views of the individuals whose stories are told. Organization and activities described were not supported by Salud America! or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and do not necessarily represent the views of Salud America! or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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