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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU nursing professor awarded funding to promote healthy habits

New Mexico State University School of Nursing Associate Professor Becky Keele is the lead investigator for a "Pipeline to Proposal" funding award from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). This was only one of 30 proposals approved for funds intended to develop communities interested in advancing patient-driven health research.

Keele's objective is to increase the capacity of Mexican-American families residing in the Colonias of the Southern New Mexico border region to discover strategies to promote healthy eating and physical activity to reduce health disparities related to overweight and obesity issues.

Collaborators on Keele's project, "Mobilizing Community Engagement for Health in a Southern New Mexico Border Region Colonia" include Vallabh Shah, PCORI investigator and professor senior fellow at the New Mexico Center for the Advancement of Research, Engagement and Science on Health Disparities along with Beatriz Favela, program operations director for NMSU's Southern Area Health Education Center in the College of Health and Social Services. Shah is doing similar work with the Zuni Native American population, and Favela has been involved in health promotion activities for a number of years within the Colonia communities.

A tier-one project, this community-based participatory research approach will create a community alliance work group. Members of the work group will be recruited from the education and health care systems, business and policy-making sectors and families living in the Colonias.

"The primary aim of this work group will be to create a work group structure, develop goals and objectives, and to do some initial brainstorming related to the challenges and strengths within the Colonia community structure that impact the ability to participate in healthy eating and regular physical activity," Keele said.

In New Mexico, Hispanic school-aged children are more than twice as likely as White non-Hispanic students to be obese (17.7 percent versus 8.7 percent) according to Healthy Kids New Mexico. Hispanic families residing in the Colonias are at a higher risk for health disparities because of substandard housing, safety issues, high poverty levels and lack of basic infrastructure.

Increased poverty places families at high risk for food insecurity, which is the inability to access sufficient, safe and nutritious food. Children in food-insecure homes are significantly more likely to be overweight. The lack of access to needed resources makes healthy choices about eating and physical activity very difficult.