Thursday, March 19, 2015

Scholarship Students, Nutrition, and Health

Text by Amy Scheuren
Photos by Jeff Leventhal, except as noted

"The reality is that certain foods have been imposed on the country, while foods produced and nurtured by people according to their cultures and to their real needs are becoming more and more scarce."*

Last November Pop Wuj hosted our annual scholarship assembly for all of our scholarship students and their families.  Seventy-nine of the over 130 scholarship students attended the assembly and also had a well check-up at the Pop Wuj Clinic.  We checked height and weight, provided vitamins and anti-parasitic treatment, a dental treatment, and full medical consults for any students who were sick.

We used the Body Mass Index, a measure for indicating nutritional status, to determine whether the children and youth were in the healthy range in terms of height and weight.

Registering with Isabel

Ingrid gets weighed
Emma, the former General Projects Coordinator, measures Ilcy
Fifty-two of the attendees were girls or young women while 27 were boys or young men.  Of the 52 girls and young women, two were considered obese, 14 overweight, 30 normal, two mildly thin, three moderately thin, and one severely thin.

Dr. Barbara in a consult with Norma, 11 years old

Of the 27 boys and young men, none were obese, two are overweight, 24 were normal, and 1 was severely thin. 

Due to easy access to cheap, packaged, processed, junk food, some Guatemalans are overweight yet malnourished, just like in developed countries like the U.S.

Oscar waits to be measured
In addition to the yearly health check up for all of the scholarship students, Pop Wuj also offers a quarterly "control médico" (well check up) for the Family Support Center participants.  These children and youth are almost all scholarship students as well.  The Pop Wuj Clinic staff and volunteers conducted the first 2015 control médico in February.

Dr. Barbara examines one of our youngest participants
Photo by Amy Scheuren
Nearly all of the forty children and youth were present for the well check up.  We found that 24 of the participants fell into the normal range for height and weight.  Six children are considered overweight for their height, two are considered moderately thin, two are mildly malnourished, and two have moderately retarded growth.

Photo by Amy Scheuren

To learn more about the nutritional issues facing many of the families we work with and how recent political and economic history has greatly affected their situation, read Free Trade and Mexico's Junk Food Epidemic.

Mexico and Guatemala share some similarities and the trade and investment policies of the last 20 years that have shaped Mexico's current food and health crisis are now also bleeding into Guatemala.  The numbers will vary, but the health effects are and will likely be very, very similar over time.

*Free Trade and Mexico's Junk Food Epidemic,

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