This week I have been at different Head Start locations, trying to recruit parents to take surveys about awareness of speech-language pathology services for their children. Jhordan and I have been working in partnership with faculty from the Communication Sciences and Disorders department at the University of Texas Pan-American. While we were administering surveys at schools, there was a nutrition competition going on at every Head Start location in Hidalgo County, Texas this whole week. Parents brought in a healthy homemade food dish and it is judged based on nutrition and deliciousness. I have watched as dozens of parents have brought in food varying from fruit parfaits to traditional Mexican dishes. This is supposed to create some “healthy” competition as well as encouraging families to cook healthier. While this may not seem like a big problem, nutrition and exercise are very essential in an area where 80% of the population is overweight and 30% have diabetes. During the nutrition competition, children also performed all week for the parents. The presentations varied by location, but one of my favorite moments was watching these tiny kids (under 5 years old) dance to the Cupid Shuffle. Dancing is one of the ways they encourage regular, fun exercise in children.
After witnessing parents’ involvement in their children’s health, I feel very inspired by the commitment to staying healthy in the community. Southern Texas has many great programs that promote healthy behaviors in adults to prevent chronic disease; however, I believe that it is more critical to start promoting healthy behaviors at a very early age. I have learned that children often learn behaviors from their parents. If the parents are not setting a good example for their children it is easy for the children to adopt this behavior. The nutrition and physical education curriculum at Head Start in south Texas is a big public health asset because children are taught from the start how to live a healthy life and may even influence their families to do the same. This week at Head Start has been eye opening to me about how important early intervention services are for children in the community. Maternal and child health is an interest of mine and I am so grateful for the opportunity to contribute to child health in the local community.