Two weekends ago, our program had the opportunity to work with Universidad Panamericana in conducting research on childhood obesity in a rural town called Malinalco. With the direction of two UP faculty investigators, three medical school students, two nursing students, and one psychology student, we wanted to help find any physical, social, cultural, and environmental factors that may contribute to obesity among the children of this town who were between the ages of 7 and 12. We collected all sorts of information–in areas that include anthropometric measurements, general physical abilities and fitness, nutrition and diet, weekly physical activity, perceptions of beauty and obesity, prenatal care, and socio-economic status–through a series of surveys and tests at seven different stations.
In a span of three days, we ran this clinic in La Escuela de Miguel Hidalgo (the town’s elementary school) and talked to more than 250 participating families. After data are analyzed these next few weeks, the families will receive health reports and suggestions based on our assessments. Our participation in this clinic serves as a part of a long-term study, with the primary faculty investigators working with the families of Malinalco for several months.
As a young foreigner with somewhat limited skills in Spanish, I was definitely nervous about my seeming lack of rapport with the families in Malinalco. However, I was blown away by the respect and kindness that they showed to me and the entire team. Taking time off work and busy schedules, parents showed us incredible amounts of patience as we talked to them and their children about their health. They took our sometimes silly survey questions seriously, and they tried to answer them thoughtfully and accurately. Dr. Teresa Murguía, one of the primary investigators, told me that there weren’t many accessible or affordable means of healthcare for children in the area, and that families would take any opportunity to learn about their children’s health when they can.
I was also moved by the friendliness, curiosity, and intelligence of the kids we met that weekend. Groups of eight and nine-year-olds came up to the table that Danielle and I were at, and they wanted to learn about us. We asked them questions about their siblings, classes, hobbies, favorite animals, and what they wanted to be when they grow up. They even sang “Libre Soy” to us when we asked them about the movie Frozen. In turn, they asked us to teach them words in English; they pointed to various objects around us, and we would help them pronounce the names of those items. The kids seemed so happy, and it was so fun getting to know them.