Clearing the path

John Lawrence’s message from June 18, 2018

It’s always easier to get somewhere when you have a clear path to follow. That is why ISU Extension and Outreach staff in human sciences, 4-H youth development, and community and economic development, along with local partners and Iowa State faculty, are working together to help Iowa’s Latino families find their way to better health. Their combined effort, Abriendo Caminos: Clearing the Path to Latino Family Health, is an integrated, community-based, extension research project to promote healthy lifestyles among Latino families and prevent or reduce obesity among Latino youth. Did you know?

  • Abriendo Caminos uses a “whole family approach.” It builds upon traditions of family mealtimes, being physically active as a family, healthy nutrition, and strengthening family routines and communication. Iowa State is one of four universities partnering with the University of Illinois to further develop and test the effectiveness of the curriculum.
  • In 2017, more than 140 youth and parents in 47 families participated in Abriendo Caminos in Ottumwa, Perry and Postville. Half of the families were randomly assigned to the intervention group and participated in the workshop series, and half were randomly assigned to the control group and received printed materials related to topics covered in the workshops.
  • The research team collected data from both groups before the workshop series, two weeks afterward and six months later. They collected data related to body mass index, blood pressure, body fat mass, types of foods regularly consumed, physical activity, food insecurity, social support, depression, stress and family routines.
  • At one site, they collected hair samples to examine cortisol, an indicator of stress. Findings revealed that social support decreased and cortisol levels increased among families in the control group. However, social support increased and cortisol levels did not increase among families in the intervention group. Participation in Abriendo Caminos may have led to increased social support among families, which in turn buffered stress they experienced. Family Life Extension State Specialist Kimberly Greder says further analysis will help to determine if positive changes in diet and physical activity also reduce stress among youth and parents who participate in Abriendo Caminos.

In 2018, more families are participating in Abriendo Caminos in Ottumwa, Perry and Postville, as well as in Des Moines. To learn more, contact Greder,

More notes

  • Refer to our new Disaster Recovery webpage for resources related to drought, flooding, severe weather and fire. (This page replaces previous “Dealing with Disaster” topic pages.) The new page is linked under “Learn More About …” on the ISU Extension and Outreach homepage. As events and conditions warrant, we’ll add more resources.
  • This week I begin my visits to the four corners of the state: June 18, Ossian; June 20, Sheldon; June 21, Malvern; and June 25, Mt. Pleasant. I’m looking forward to the discussions. A foundation of the extension idea is to listen, because often the best research ideas come from our stakeholders.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Vice President for Extension and Outreach

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