Latino nursing students in five cities have joined together to form "Muevete (Move) USA", a project that seeks to change the eating habits of Latino kids from tots to teenagers.

Chicago, Phoenix, San Antonio, Brownsville, Texas, and Edinburg, Texas, are the first urban centers that since March have implemented the program with the participation of 35 female Hispanic nursing students.

"A need exists to provide solutions for the health and well-being of Hispanic communities, particularly through training by Hispanic nurses," Dr. Norma Martinez Rogers of the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio, director of Muevete USA, told Efe.

Martinez Rogers stressed the importance of teaching Hispanic kids to eat healthily so that overweight and obesity never weigh on their future.

According to figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity affects close to 12.5 million minors between the ages of 2 and 19, a figure that has almost tripled since 1980.

The disparities in the prevalence of obesity seen among different ethnic and racial groups show the Latino community doing relatively badly.

According to CDC figures, in the 2007-2008 period, young Hispanics between ages 2-19 had obesity indices much higher than those of white kids of the same age.

Martinez Rogers described the high obesity indices of this population as "a time bomb," and stressed the importance of educating children as a way to lessen their chances of suffering obesity in the future.

"Among Hispanics, obesity is a risk factor associated with heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes, type 2 diabetes, kidney failure and certain types of cancer, and a great deal of research has shown that childhood and adolescent obesity often leads to obesity as adults," she said.

One thing that stops low-income Hispanic families from having a healthy lifestyle is the fact that in many of their communities kids have much greater access to establishments selling fairly unhealthy food than to places offering higher nutritional value, Martinez Rogers said.

"Students begin to understand the way culture and context contribute to the unhealthy habits that put children and teens at risk in low-income urban neighborhoods," the community-health expert said.

Various studies have shown the gap in quantity and quality between supermarkets in underprivileged areas and those in well-to-do communities.

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