CSULB Approves “Latino Health and Nutrition Studies” Graduate Level Certificate

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“Latino Health and Nutrition Studies" Graduate Level CertificateThe Academic Senate at CSULB recently voted to approve a new graduate level certificate entitled “Latino Health and Nutrition Studies.” The certificate program, which will be open to students pursuing masters degrees at CSULB, provides an in-depth education to prepare future health professionals to offer services for the nation’s largest minority: Latinos.

The certificate was developed thanks to continued funding from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) since 2007 to co-Principal Investigators Dr. Britt Rios-Ellis, Director of the Center for Latino Community Health and Professor of Health Science, and Dr. Gail C. Frank, RD, CHES, Director of the Dietetic Internship and Professor of Nutrition. Frank and Rios-Ellis are currently overseeing a $3.75 million, 5-year grant from the USDA focused on reducing childhood obesity. This grant enabled the development of this certificate program in the midst of the drastic reduction in public financing of higher education that has stymied development of new curriculum. The Latino Health and Nutrition Studies certificate will consist of six, 3-unit courses. Classes include “Health Equity and Disparities Research in the US,” which is being offered for the first time this semester, and “Advanced Latino Nutrition, Health and Chronic Disease Prevention,” to be offered spring 2013. “Culturally Responsive Nutrition Promotion for Latinos,” “Advanced Latino Community Health,” “Latino Health: A Focus on the Child” and an internship course are being scheduled for student enrollment. The certificate will be offered fall 2013.

Frank points out, “the certificate is a unique set of courses which not only increases the versatility of faculty, but also strengthens the cultural-competence of students, which is now an employment recommendation in federally-funded health programs.” This certificate is a potential model for other courses being developed in Hispanic Serving Institutions throughout the United States. “It will help our students in diverse health and human service occupations meet the needs of California’s growing Latino population and potentially serve as a national model of culturally relevant education and disease prevention and management,” says Rios-Ellis. “Some of Southern California’s largest health care employers, such as AltaMed and Kaiser have asked about the certificate components, timeline, and when we expect to have our first student cohort graduated and ready for employment,” she continued.

Currently, Latinos comprise about 37.6% of California’s population (13 million) a figure projected to increase to more than 50% within 20 years. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the City of Long Beach has a population of 462,257 people, of which 40.8% are Latino. Critical health issues facing Latinos today include cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Childhood obesity and overweight is a significant public health epidemic in the U.S., as well as globally, and leads to adverse physical, mental, and emotional health effects. Among those most at risk are our nation’s children, especially minority youth. Prevalence of overweight and obesity among Hispanic boys aged 2 to 19 is now 39.9%, far surpassing their African American (33%) and white (29.5%) counterparts (Ogden et al, 2010). Frank emphasizes that, “Our graduates in health-related majors will acquire up-to-date knowledge and skills placing them as top candidates for leadership and managerial positions not only in California but through the country.”

CSULB, being a Hispanic Serving Institution with a mission to serve to local community, is uniquely positioned to train future professionals in this area to serve both the surrounding areas as well as throughout the nation. Hector Vasquez, a CSULB graduate student in Nutritional Science notes “This certificate will prepare students like myself to meet critical health challenges of our community as well as our nation.”

For more information about the certificate, contact the NCLR/CSULB Center for Latino Community Health, Evaluation, and Leadership Training at 562/985-5312. http://www.csulb.edu/centers/latinohealth/home.html.

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