Educating Early Learners To Create Better Health Outcomes

Hispanic and Black populations have long experienced disproportionate rates of childhood obesity in the US. COVID-19 has exacerbated this issue and others, putting more minority and low-income populations at risk for extensive health complications, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

To help address this crisis, the Social and Health Research Center (SAHRC) of San Antonio, TX, under the leadership of Executive Director Dr. Roberto Trevino, developed the Bienestar/NEEMA Coordinated School Health Program (Bienestar). This evidence-based curriculum is designed to educate and engage children in positive behaviors that can significantly reduce the health risks of obesity, diabetes, respiratory ailments, and other predisposing conditions. Since its launch, Bienestar has been recognized as a successful intervention program by numerous public health and education agencies, including the CDC, the National Institutes for Health (NIH), the Texas Education Agency, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and the National Cancer Institute.

To influence behavior change, SAHRC is developing content that is both affordable for schools and engaging for students. With support from Q4HE, SAHRC is converting its kindergarten through 3rd-grade curriculum from a traditional textbook format to an interactive, digital animated platform, making it more economical for school districts and more compelling for students. This new platform utilizes age-appropriate, full-motion 3D animated characters, animated sing-alongs, tutorials, and gamification of quizzes and tests to inform, entertain, and inspire students to adopt healthy habits.

“This grant from Q4HE provides a better chance of reaching more children and families with more effective health messaging. This means that we can help close the gap in health equity and prevent the development of type 2 diabetes and heart disease in more communities. Less disease means fewer sick days taken, less school missed, and longer lives lived. If that doesn’t tug at your heartstrings, what does?”

Dr. Roberto Trevino Executive Director, SAHRC

The Bienestar program is culturally appropriate and designed to engage high-risk students. Its coordinated lessons were created for use in health and physical education classes, in school food service programs, and in direct engagement with parents. SAHRC is using this curriculum to help reduce blood glucose and insulin levels, decrease obesity rates, increase dietary fiber intake, and increase fitness levels in children. With Q4HE’s support, SAHRC will be able to expand its reach from San Antonio across the country, offering a more accessible, inspiring, and affordable curriculum for schools to engage underserved student populations.

“The dramatic decrease in the cost of the Bienestar curriculum makes it accessible for school districts serving low-income communities. Through digitization of its content, the price for schools dropped from $18,000 for the printed version to under $1,000 for the digitized version. This puts the resource within reach so our students can improve their health and quality of life.”

Pedro Martinez Superintendent, San Antonio Independent School District

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