225784 WE CAN reduce obesity among Latinos: Evaluation of an obesity intervention adapted to an urban, low-income Latino community

Wednesday, November 10, 2010 : 11:00 AM - 11:15 AM

Jessica Faye Wallace, MPH, MSHS, PA-C , Unity Health Care, Inc, Washington, DC
Eleni O'Donovan, MD , Upper Cardozo Health Center, Unity Health Care, Washington, DC

WE CAN reduce obesity among Latinos: Evaluation of an obesity intervention adapted to an urban, low-income Latino community


Unity Health Care's Upper Cardozo Health Center is a large Federally-Qualified Community Health Center in Washington, DC. The clinic serves as a medical home to over 18,000 patients, regardless of their ability to pay. Our population is low-income and largely immigrant with greater than 75 percent Spanish-speaking Latinos. Research in obesity prevention programs among the Latino population is lacking, and interventions tailored to other minority groups have shown little success in improving the health of the Latino community.

To fill this gap, Upper Cardozo adapted the national “We Can!: Ways to Enhance Children's Activity and Nutrition” program to encourage healthy eating habits and physical activity among Latino families. In spite of the current health care climate, designers of the adapted program have developed a sustainable patient-centered program that not only focuses on individual health needs but looks to address the issues of the wider community as well.


Upper Cardozo's “We Can!” program runs a series of weekly evening programs in our clinic. Families are referred from their Primary Care Providers. We provide a healthy meal, teach a short class on nutrition, and provide a period of physical activity (including yoga, aerobic dance and games). The curriculum is tailored to our patients' unique needs related to medical history, language, health literacy, community resources, individual questions and requests, and previous successes.


We have completed twelve 4-week programs since July of 2008. A total of 99 adults and 137 children have been involved with the program, and one-third of all participants have attended at least 4 sessions. For the overwhelming majority (75%) of children and adults in the program, BMI remained stable or decreased over a 12-month period. Participants also demonstrated positive behavior changes such as decreasing average daily soda consumption by more than 75% and average daily juice consumption by 50%.


Upper Cardozo's adaptation of the popular “We Can!” program is effective in improving nutrition and physical activity knowledge and behavior in an urban, low-income Latino community that suffers disproportionately from obesity and its comorbidities.

Learning Areas:
Chronic disease management and prevention
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
1) Identify at least 3 key elements of creating a sustainable intervention within a community health center (or similar) setting. 2) Describe ways to adapt the We Can model and similar programs to an underserved Latino population. 3) Formulate measurable objectives and outcomes for similar obesity interventions.

Keywords: Obesity, Latino Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a co-coordinator and regular participant in this program.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.