As Chairwoman of the Herbalife Nutrition Advisory Board, I am especially interested in public health issues such as obesity and malnutrition. And as we commemorate Hispanic Heritage month in the U.S., I think it’s important to take a closer look at how and why the Latino population is at higher risk for obesity, diabetes and other chronic diseases. According to a special report from Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the percentage of obese and overweight children and adults is higher in Latino vs. white populations.
There are many reasons for this: certain cultural habits that are hard to change, such as eating foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar, and lack of access to healthier food. There are fewer places in Hispanic communities to safely play and exercise. There may also be some language barriers to mainstream messages about health that aren’t getting through, as well as lack of targeted marketing to these communities.
I reached out to Dr. Yanira Cruz, MD, President and CEO of the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA); and Angela Arboleda, Vice President, Government & Community Engagement for Herbalife Nutrition, to share more about the work they are doing to address these challenges.
What are some of challenges facing the Hispanic older adults, their families and caregivers in the United States?
Dr. Cruz: There is a wide range of challenges facing Hispanics and Hispanic older adults in the United States. In this era, coupled with anti-immigrant sentiments, we see issues with affordable housing and gentrification, the digital divide, lack of trained family caregivers, economic insecurity and food insecurity. In addition, Hispanic older adults face a range of health disparities including cancer, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other life-threatening illnesses.
What are some of the programs offered by NHCOA to address these challenges?
Dr. Cruz: To address the housing crisis, NHCOA operates two low-income housing facilities that serve the older adult populations in Washington, D.C. (Casa Iris) and Garden City, Kansas (Mira Vista). These facilities provide safe and affordable housing to more than 140 seniors.
To address diabetes and general health and wellness, NHCOA developed the Salud y Bienestar program, NHCOA’s evidence-based flagship program. Salud y Bienestar consists of training sessions focused on general knowledge about diabetes, risk factors associated with diabetes, and prevention and control of diabetes. Participants also receive information on healthy eating habits and physical activity.
NHCOA also engages in several advocacy campaigns, such as prevention of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, and passage of expanded paid leave policies for family caregivers.
How has the partnership with Herbalife Nutrition supported NHCOA to improve the health among Hispanic older adults?
Dr. Cruz: Our partnership with Herbalife Nutrition aids NHCOA in supplementing the diets of food insecure Hispanic older adults while ensuring they are receiving proper nutrition. We’re glad to be partnered with a company dedicated to improving health and happiness around the globe.
Arboleda: Organizations like NHCOA are important partners of Herbalife Nutrition because they provide direct services to communities most in need. Our partnership with NHCOA goes back to 2014, and since 2016 Herbalife Nutrition has served as one of the nutrition sponsors of NHCOA’s Nutritional Initiative for Seniors called “Having Breakfast with Herbalife Nutrition.”
How does the mission of National Hispanic Council on Aging align with Herbalife Nutrition’s purpose as a global nutrition company?
Arboleda: In many respects, the mission and purpose of Herbalife Nutrition and NHCOA are very much in synch. They intersect in the areas of nutrition and healthy living. At the same time, supporting the Latino community is an integral part of Herbalife Nutrition. Together, we are striving to improve the lives of a growing Hispanic population by promoting education about the importance of good nutrition, physical activity and community support.