Dr. Amelie Ramirez is the director of Salud America! The RWJF Research Network to Prevent Obesity among Latino Children. The one-time cheerleader and drill team star is dedicated to improving the health of the Latino community. Her work is vital for the nation’s health, as the percentage of Latinos in the United States is expected to grow to about 30 percent by 2050.
What inspired you to start working on childhood obesity?
I’ve been working to conduct research and communication-driven interventions to prevent tobacco use and improve cancer diagnosis, screening and survivorship among Latinos since the 1980s. Latinos suffer disproportionately from certain cancers, and certain cancers are being increasingly linked to obesity. It was a natural extension of my ongoing work in cancer and chronic disease to start examining obesity and its impact on Latinos.
I knew Latino children were more overweight than children overall and obese kids are likely to be obese as adults and thus increase their risk of health problems including heart disease, diabetes, stroke and several types of cancer. Obesity actually causes a large percentage of preventable deaths in this country. I also knew that Latino children’s health is becoming even more important for the nation’s health as the percentage of Latinos in the United States is expected to increase from about 16 percent now to about 30 percent by 2050.
I am excited to do what I can to contribute to a solution and healthier Latino kids.
How are you helping to reverse childhood obesity?
RWJF funded the launch of Salud America! in 2007. Salud America! built a network — an online community — of more than 2,100 researchers, academics, community leaders and other stakeholders dedicated to reversing Latino childhood obesity. The network is fed with the latest in Latino childhood obesity research, funding opportunities, events and news through quarterly e-newsletters and monthly e-alerts. But the network feeds back, too. In 2008, Salud America! conducted an innovative Delphi survey with its network that formed the first-ever, scientifically published Latino Childhood Obesity Research Priority Agenda.
Currently, we’re in the middle of releasing six research packages on Latino childhood obesity issues, each with a research review, issues brief, infographic and animated video. These can be found at www.salud-america.org.
We’re also developing “Growing Healthy Change,” the first Latino child obesity prevention online platform. The platform will give users an opportunity to:
Be sure to join our network to see progress.
What’s your biggest accomplishment so far in helping reduce childhood obesity?
I’m proud of the many things Salud America! has accomplished in its first five years, including:
Who is your role model in your work?
I had two professors who impacted my career, Alfred McAlister and Larry Green. Both were forward thinkers in the areas of public health and health education and stressed the opportunity for higher education and giving back to your community. I learned a lot from them that I continue to apply in my work today. We also remain close collaborators. Personally, my parents were instrumental in supporting my education and teaching me the importance of hard work and focusing my attention on an area that can help others lead better, healthier lives.
What game or sport did you play growing up?
I loved horseback riding and working at the ranch with my Dad. I also enjoyed dancing very much. While I was at Nixon High School in Laredo, Texas, I participated in cheerleading and was a member of the Golden Spurs dance drill team.
Interested in taking part in Gimme Five? Contact PreventObesity.net’s Zach Brooks.