University of Delaware
UD volunteers take measurements during the Vive tu Vida healthy lifestyle event.

Vive tu Vida

Research and event focus on health in Hispanic community


3:32 p.m., Oct. 16, 2012--Getting exercise can be as simple as dancing to some fast-paced music, and preparing healthy meals can be easy and inexpensive. Those were the messages shared by a team of University of Delaware health sciences faculty and students who volunteered at Vive tu Vida, an annual Hispanic family physical activity and healthy lifestyle event.

More than 1,000 people turned out at Anson Nixon Park in Kennett Square, Pa., on Saturday, Oct. 12, for the event.  

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The UD involvement in Vive tu Vida was an outgrowth of a research collaboration between a team of faculty in the Department of Behavioral Health and Nutrition and La Comunidad Hispana, a federally qualified health center committed to empower immigrants and low-income residents of southern Chester County to stay healthy, build strong families, and lead productive and fulfilling lives.

Assistant professors Mia Papas, Jillian Trabulsi and Greg Dominick are conducting a pilot study “Project Vida Sana,” which focuses on understanding the role of food insecurity, health literacy, diet and physical activity on obesity rates among Hispanic mothers and children.

“The community center has been a wonderful partner with us,” says Papas. “The nurse practitioners there have encouraged people to participate in the research, and they’ve been very interested in our results.”

“When the opportunity came to participate in Vive tu Vida, we realized we could extend our reach into the community beyond the research . Our goal was to show how we can build fun into physical exercise.”

The UD students participated in two on-stage demonstrations to promote physical activity -- “Get Up and Dance” and “The Parachute: A Physical Activity Exercise for All.” 

The cardio dance routines were led by graduate student Alicia Dahl, who has been a trained dancer for 19 years. “Dance is an ideal form of physical activity for children — it enhances coordination, cardiovascular fitness, balance and spirit,” she says. “All that’s needed is music and a little bit of space. For the Hispanic population, I think this was something a little different from what they were used to seeing with the typical Latin style dances. Everyone seemed to enjoy it, and it made my day to share my passion with the kids.”

The UD students also hosted two informational booths. One, run by nutrition and dietetics students, focused on healthy eating. The other, part of a “know your numbers” campaign, provided information on the importance of health screenings.  All four undergraduate clubs within BHAN -- public health, health behavior science, nutrition and dietetics, and health and physical education -- recruited student volunteers who volunteered throughout the day.

“Our work with the community center and this event has been great for our students,” Papas says. “It’s really valuable for them to have experience working in communities, as cultural practices and beliefs can have an impact on health and health promotion activities.”

Article by Diane Kukich

Photos by Doug Baker

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