Health class celebrates surpassing language barrier

September 21, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
A language barrier in San Mateo County turned into a health barrier. A program to help kids and their parents was taught in English, but Spanish speakers desperately wanted to take it. On Wednesday night, they celebrated that barrier coming down.

San Mateo County health officials say even a little bit of movement is better than nothing. They are teaching kids and their parents how to eat right and exercise through a program called Shapedown.

"So at least 30 minutes for the parents, three times a week and definitely 60 minutes a week for kids, seven times, meaning every day," said Shapedown instructor Vilma Andari.

Reyna Valdez, 13, took the eight-week-long course after her doctor warned her about the threat of diabetes.

"We told her what we ate and we didn't eat right and she said you guys should go to this program," says Valdez.

Students use six workbooks while taking the class, but the problem was the books were in English. The number of Spanish speakers asking for the class was three times higher than English speakers.

"Families that needed the services of Shapedown were not able to get it," says Mary Giammona, M.D., from the Health Plan of San Mateo.

The class is for the child and the parent. And for the parents who only speak Spanish, the English version was just too difficult.

County officials decided to raise $150,000 to get the books translated.

"It took us almost two years to raise the funds, but we did," says Giammona.

And Tuesday night, they celebrated their first year of Spanish Shapedown, which more than 100 families have completed. That is benefiting the kids and the parents.

"We had one dad who lost 20 pounds," says Andari.

Valdez lost four pounds. She doesn't drink soda or eat fast food anymore.

"It feels better, you feel more happy about yourself," says Valdez.

Valdez is actuality hungry for more information. She'd like to see a follow up class added so she can learn more about living a healthier lifestyle.


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