MPH Panama Practicum 2012: Nutrition Group Rocks in Panama!!!!!!

July 9, 2012
Author: Chloe Smith

With students after conducting focus group

The nutrition group consists of Yasmin, Chelsea, Theresa, Jessica and myself (Chloe). We are working at a school called Altos de Cabuya. We were unsure about their nutrition and physical education needs and what they were exactly looking for us. After our initial meeting with our Panamanian contacts and public health representatives, we established that the school needed a height and weight assessment to determine the BMI of the 3rd, 4th and 5th graders.

With that data we can establish the physical condition (underweight, normal, overweight, obese) of the students at the school. Additionally, during our week there we have conducted physical education classes, presentations about on healthy lunches and on nutrition in general. We have also had a chance to speak to select groups of students and as well as parents to find out what their nutritional desires and biggest health concerns are. Furthermore, we asked questions regarding their knowledge about nutrition and lifestyle information.

We did an environmental scan on the school grounds and observed the garden and chicken coupe. We learned that the students in most need are given lunch 2x a week by the school using their garden grown veggies and chickens. All the students are provided government sponsored snacks and milk everyday. We noticed that some kids are overweight and others appear to be malnourished. Once we analyze our data, we will have a better understanding of the needs of the students as well as recommendations for intervention, meal planning and physical activity. Currently, the students participate in 80min of P.E. one time per week and do not exercise much at home.

There is currently a support group for children at high risk for obesity entitled “Menos Peso, Mas Salud!”- which translates into less weight, more health. This support will hopefully utilize some of the deliverables being developed by the students in the nutrition group.
By the way, we are all awesome ladies!

P.S. The kids could not be cuter and more excited to hang out with us everyday.

More about the MPH Panama Practicum

A group of 15 University of Southern California graduate students are researching public health in Panama City, Panama, for a two-week international practicum, organized by the USC Master of Public Health (MPH) program. The students have been divided into three groups to work on maternal and child health, vaccination, environmental infectious diseases, nutrition and physical activity.

One group will be surveying patients about the healthcare system at a local clinic and proposing interventions to improve vaccination, infant development and women’s health. Another group will be in the field responding to outbreaks of environmentally spread infectious diseases and working to control common vectors such as mosquitoes. The last group will be calculating body mass index measurements for elementary school students and developing methods to improve nutrition and exercise within the school.

During their trip, the students will also be attending lectures on Panama’s healthcare system and statistics as well as visiting a remote indigenous tribe. Before leaving Panama, each student will be providing a deliverable that is intended to improve health in Panama.

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