Abriendo Caminos is a family-focused obesity prevention education program and research project. Iowa State University Extension Outreach has partnered with Dallas County Public Health and Dallas County Hospital to conduct the program. The program is a whole family approach to prevent or reduce childhood obesity by promoting healthy nutrition and life-style behaviors which incorporate the traditions of Hispanic-heritage.


The project began on March 21, 2017 and is part of a two-year research program that is supported by the USDA. Currently, California, Illinois, Puerto Rico, Texas and Iowa are participating in this new research program. Within Iowa, there are only three program communities; Ottumwa, Postville, and Perry. Each participating community finds at minimum 20 families to participate within the program guidelines. Each family must meet the criteria of being of Mexican origin, with the parents and/or caregivers who primarily speak Spanish, and have children between the ages of six to eighteen years old. All of the families receive incentives for participation.


Participating families are divided into two groups by random selection. For the Perry program, the Control group consists of ten families and the Intervention group consists of eleven families. Each family is asked to participate in a series of entry and exit data testing. Both groups participated in an initial mandatory interview and they had the option of participating in lab draws, an assessment of each family member’s height and weight, hair sample testing and body mass index (BMI) on the beginning date of March 21, 2017.


After the initial entry data was collected, each group went their separate ways. The Control families received written material on nutrition, physical activity, and family time and the Intervention families are participating in two-hour classes held once a week over the course of six weeks. After the six weeks are over on May 9, 2017 and then again six months later, both groups are asked to come back to Dallas County Hospital for another set of interview questions, lab draws, and assessment of each member’s height, weight, and body mass index (BMI).


The Intervention group’s classes are held every Tuesday evening at Dallas County Hospital. Each class is split into three main sections: Nutrition taught by Mary Krisco; Physical Activity taught by Lupita Chavez, LPN; Family Time led by Rosa Gonzalez; and MariSue Hartung and Lisa Mickelson are youth facilitators for Nutrition from Iowa State University. The nutrition focus each week is on different food groups and portions that should be consumed. Physical Activity ranges from every day wellness to focusing specifically on an active life for healthy heart and lungs to overall being active, strong, and decreasing sedentary behavior.


Dallas County Hospital and Dallas County Public Health are excited to partner with Iowa State University Extension Outreach on this selective research program to help Hispanic families within Perry focus on obesity prevention. The team will begin another program for twenty-five new families in the Spring of 2018. For more information or questions, please contact Lupita Chavez by phone at 515-465-7684 or by email lchavez@dallascohospital.org, or Rosa Gonzalez at 515-490-2298 or by email rdegonza@iastate.edu.