ASPIRA Health Program

Supported by the Potomac Health Foundation the ASPIRA Association work together to promote a healthy lifestyle in the Virginia, Prince William County area. The program will consist of a video contest, media campaign, and a Diabetes Prevention Program. For more information on each of these areas, visit the links on the page and follow our ostings on social media.

The Obesity Epidemic

The Statistics

The prevalence of obesity and being overweight among the Hispanic population is at an alarming rate. According to Office of Minority Health (OMH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Hispanic Americans were 1.2 times more likely to be obese than non-Hispanic whites and had the second highest rate of obesity in the country (42.5%) (OMH, 2011; CDC, 2014). Unfortunately, obesity rates for Hispanic youth are just as distressing. According to the CDC, Hispanic youth have the highest rates of obesity with a rate of 22.4%, compared to 20.2% for non-Hispanic blacks and 14.7% for non-Hispanic whites (CDC, 2011-2012). 

Health Risks and Consequences

Obesity is a major concern due to the serious health consequences it may bring. These risks include (CDC, 2011) :

  • Cardiovascular diseases such as coronary heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Developing breast or colon cancer
  • High cholesterol and/or triglyceride levels
  • Sleep Apnea
  • Respiratory problems
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Infertility
  • Mental Health Problems
  • Higher expenses to pay for health care

Why Latinos?    

Possible explanations for the high prevalence of obesity among minority groups were reviewed in by Dion Begay in 2005. Begay discusses how fast food restaurants are strategically placed in low-income neighborhoods in which minorities typically reside in. A study by Ming Wen and Thomas N. Maloney from 2011 found other factors, such as the failure to provide a health-promoting environment and the trend of passing unhealthy habits, to be other possible factors. For this reason, it is imperative more health education is available to these Latino communities to increase their awareness of obesity. Other significant factors include the lack of physical activity and improper nutrition among Hispanics, which is discussed further in the Physical Activity & Nutrition tabs.

What now?

    It is never too late to become in charge of your health. Incorporate more physical activity into your daily routine and consume a more nutritious diet. For more information and resources download our brochure.

The Risks of Diabetes

What Do The Statistics Say?  

Diabetes and obesity are interconnected issues. In fact, 80% of patients living with type 2 diabetes are overweight (Office of Minority Health (OMH), 2006 ) and diabetes rates double with obesity (CDC, year). In 2012, 9.3% of Americans had diabetes and the rate continues to increase (American Diabetes Association, 2012). The prevalence of diabetes in the Hispanic population however, is even higher. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), in 2014 12.8% of Hispanic adults have been diagnosed with diabetes compared to only 7.6% among non-Hispanic white adults (ADA,2014). Furthermore, Hispanics are twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than non-Hispanic whites and are 50% more likely to die from diabetes (OMH, 2014) .

Even more alarming is the trend of diabetes among Hispanic youth. According to the CDC, from 1998-2002 diabetes tended to occur more often in the young Hispanic population. In a population of adults ages 18-44, it was found that 3.2% of Hispanics were diagnosed with diabetes while only 1.3% of adults were diagnosed with diabetes (CDC, year). Furthermore, female and male Hispanics born in 2000 have a 52.5% and 45.4% chance respectively, of developing diabetes while female and male non-Hispanic whites born in 2000 have a 31.2% and 26.7% chance respectively (CDC, year). 

What is Diabetes?

    According to the National Diabetes Education Program, Diabetes is a disease where the diabetic has high glucose levels in the blood stream due to the body’s inability to produce sufficient amounts of insulin or a defect in the insulin produced (National Diabetes Education Program, 2009). The two most popular types of diabetes are type 1 and type 2, are discussed below as well as gestational diabetes.

  • Type 1– Type 1 Diabetes is most commonly known as juvenile diabetes. This diabetes is due to a defect in the immune system causing the immune system to attack the patient’s own insulin producing beta cells (National Diabetes Education Program, 2009). For this reason, Type 1 Diabetics must inject or pump their own insulin.
  • Type 2- Type 2 diabetes is most commonly known as adult onset diabetes because it used to be most prevalent in adults older than 40 (National Diabetes Education Program, 2009). However, it is now becoming more popular among children and adolescents (National Diabetes Education Program, 2009). When the body can no longer make enough insulin or utilize the insulin produced efficiently, the diabetes is diagnosed as type 2 (National Diabetes Program, 2009). 
  • Gestational Diabetes- Less popular than type 1 and 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes occurs in pregnant women. Women with gestational diabetes have a 40-60% chance of developing type 2 diabetes within the next 5- 10 years (National Diabetes Education Program, 2009).

Consequences of Diabetes

The complications of diabetes and co-morbid conditions are as follows (ADA, 2014):

  • Hypoglycemia
  • Hyperglycemia
  • Dislipidemia
  • Higher Cardiovascular Disease Death Rates
  • Higher heart attack rates
  • Stroke
  • Blindness
  • Kidney disease
  • Amputations

The New York Department of Health also mentions the possibility of developing neuropathy ( a nerve damaging disease), infections, sores, itching, gingivitis, and periodontists (New York Department of Health, 2011). 


Weight loss, thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, and blurred vision are symptoms frequently seen in both type 1 and 2 diabetes (National Diabetes Education Program, 2009) . Type 1 diabetes symptoms also include constant hunger while type 2 diabetes symptoms also include both frequent infections and slow-healing wounds (National Diabetes Education Program, 2009).

What Now?

 If you already have diabetes or have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes, it not too late to make lifestyle changes. There are many resources available on how to control your diabetes and how to prevent the onset of diabetes. You can locate more of these resources in the Links & Resources section down below. 

Importance of Physical Activity

According to The Office of Minority Health (OMH) , Hispanic adults were 30% less likely to engage in physical activity than non-Hispanic whites in 2011. In fact, only 15.4% of Hispanic adults 18 and older had some regular leisure physical activity (OMH, 2011) . 

Physical activity is a key strategy in the fight against obesity, which is a major concern among Latino youths since they are more likely to be overweight (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2011). The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found Latino youths to be engaged in less than one hour of daily physical activity and reported key findings in practices of the home (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2011). Other key findings of the foundation include:

  • Latino parents report more obstacles to perform physical activity than non-Hispanic white parents
  • Latinos living in low-income, unsafe neighborhoods are less likely to be active
  • Recent immigrants are more likely to be inactive
  • Acculturation may lead children to spend more time on social media and be physically inactive.

These findings can now be used to improve the situation and address the Latino community in needed areas.

Risks of Physical Inactivity

The risks of being physically inactive are not to be understated, for it is the fourth leading risk for global mortality according to the World Health Organization (WHO) (WHO, 2014). In the U.S, sedentary lifestyles are the cause of about 12% of deaths according (University of Maryland Medical Center, 2013) and physical inactivity leads to a higher risk of developing high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, certain cancers, anxiety, and depression (John Hopkins Medicine, 2014).  

Benefits of Physical Activity

It is difficult to overstate the benefits of physical activity. Not only will it lower the risk of developing serious diseases, but will also improve the overall quality of life. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2011, benefits of performing physical activity are:

  • controlling weight
  • reducing risk of cardiovascular disease; type 2 diabetes; colon, breast, and possibly lung and endometrial cancer
  • strengthening muscles and bones
  • improving mental health mood
  • improve sleep
  • improve ability to perform daily activities 
  • prevent falls 

But I Don’t Like Exercising…

It’s okay! A common misconception is believing physical activity means running for hours and performing countless ab routines. According to WHO, physical activity is not the same as exercising and physical Activity is defined as any activity that involves bodily movement while exercise is a more structured, repetitive type of physical activity with the objective of improving or maintaining a certain component of physical fitness (WHO,2014). So although running and ab routine exercise are ways to get physically active, it is not the only way to be physically active. In fact, exercise is a subcategory of physical activity (WHO, 2014) and other types of physical activity include:

  • exercise
  • working
  • active transportation
  • chores
  • recreational activities
  • dance

Healthy Eating Habits

Latinos are malnourished and are consuming an unbalanced diet high in fat and fiber and low in fruits and vegetables (Begay, 2005) .The imbalance of higher calorie intake and low physical activity is what is contributing to the obese epidemic observed throughout the entire country (Begay, 2005). 

Latinos face a more limited access to healthy foods due to their residence in low-income neighborhoods, which typically contains a higher proportion of fast-food restaurants and convenience stores (Salud America!, 2011) . A study by Ming Wen and Thomas N. Maloney from 2011 also found a lack of “health-promoting infrastructure” and trend of passing along unhealthy human behavior (Wen and Maloney, 2011). It has also been reported that 80% of Latinos find it hard to find fruits and vegetables at fast food services, 66% find it difficult to obtain fruits and vegetables at work, and 40% claim fruits and vegetables are too expensive (Begay, 2005). Although these problems may make eating healthy seem difficult, there is actually a variety of simple ways to increase fruit and vegetable intake and modify Latino’s diet to a much healthier version. 

General Guidelines

General guidelines to follow from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines from the United States Department of Agriculture. For more information, visit the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Manual in the link below.  

  •  Make sure the majority(at least half) of your plate is filled with fruits and vegetables
  • Switch to skim, 1%, or soy milk
  • Make at least half your grains whole grains
  • Be conscious of foods with sugar added and choose foods with little or no added sugars
  • Be aware of sodium in food 
  • Eat foods lower in saturated and trans fat

Latino Diet

The Latino diet is high in carbohydrates, fats, and salts and while these ingredients may result in a tasty dish, consumption in high amounts they will have negative effects on health. However, with simple modifications, these dishes can still be tasty and healthy. 

A few simple modification ideas (American Diabetes Association, 2013): 

  • Choosing dried beans over canned beans
  • Choosing more fresh seafood, lean poultry, and beans as protein sources
  • Make homemade salsa to avoid salsa with high sodium sold in stores
  • Substitute sour cream with Greek yogurt

Links & Resources

Nutrition Guidelines 2010

This manual created for Americans provides in-depth explanations of necessary nutrients and the recommended servings of different food groups, such as fruits and proteins, as well as food components to avoid, such as high sodium foods. The manual also explains the concept of calorie balance, making healthy choices, and building healthy eating patterns. 

My Plate/ Mi Plato

The My Plate program provides a visual presentation of the proportion of the different food groups that should be served at every meal. The webpage also provides helpful links such as tips, recipes, and general information- all in Spanish.


American Diabetes Association: Do Latino Foods and Diabetes Mix?, 2013

USDA Dietary Guidelines Consumer Brochure, 2014

Obesity in the Latino Population, Dion Begay, 2005

Latino Residential Isolation and the Risk of Obesity in Utah: The Role of Neighborhood Socioeconomic, Built-Environmental, and Subcultural Context; Ming Wen and Thomas N. Maloney; 2011

Salud America! Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Research Network, 2011


The National Diabetes Prevention Program (NDPP) was created by the Centers for Disease and Control with the goals of reducing participants’ risk for Type 2 Diabetes and losing weight. NDPP was based off the Diabetes Prevention Program and utilizes studied methods that have proven to be effective. The program consist of 16 core and post-core sessions, but the ASPIRA program will only be conducting the Core sessions. ASPIRA found NDPP to be the ideal choice because of its cultural sensitivity and availability in both Spanish and English. The sessions will go over important subjects as physical activity, eating habits, stress management, and how to progress towards one’s goals. The curriculum keeps participants accountable by providing a Food and Activity Tracker that will be reviewed weekly by the Lifestyle Coach. Participants also have the option of weighing themselves weekly to track their progress. The sessions are interactive and often involve discussions and activities and have been designed to leave a lasting effect on participants.