Helping Older Hispanic Women BFit

UM News,

SONHS evidence-based health intervention awarded Community Foundation of Broward BFit grant


If you’re a Hispanic woman of a certain age, statistics suggest you’re more likely than your non-Hispanic white peers to suffer from hypertension, diabetes, obesity, HIV, and a host of other chronic diseases. Yet older Hispanic women—on track to number 15 million in the U.S. by 2050—remain underrepresented both in research and in receiving health care.

Determined to change this and help aging Hispanic women take charge of their health, Rosina Cianelli, PhD, MPH, RN, IBCLC, FAAN, developed “¡ActuaYa!” or “Act Now!”—a first-of-its-kind evidence-based intervention specifically targeting the needs of Hispanic women in their 50s and beyond.

A recent $65,000 BFit grant from the Community Foundation of Broward will enable Cianelli, an associate professor and director of the MSN-DNP program at University of Miami’s School of Nursing and Health Studies (SONHS), to implement and study ¡ActuaYa! at Hispanic Unity of Florida, the community partner on the grant.

“We are grateful to the Community Foundation of Broward for its enthusiastic support of ¡ActuaYa!,” says Cianelli, a nurse researcher with expertise in health disparities and Hispanic women. “The knowledge we gain from this study will prove invaluable in continuing to identify effective, sustainable ways to address health disparities among this vulnerable population in the context of healthy aging.”

She and the study’s co-investigators—Associate Professor of Clinical Natalia Villegas, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, and Assistant Professor of Clinical Giovanna De Oliveira, PhD, MSN, ARNP, ANP-C, PMHNP-BC— will work with Hispanic women age 50 and older residing in West Hollywood who do not currently meet prescribed activity levels. That part of the city is considered a food desert, determined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as an area having limited access to supermarkets, supercenters, grocery stores, or other sources of healthy and affordable food.

The women will gather every two weeks for a 30-minute moderate-impact workout routine, facilitated discussions about chronic diseases, role-playing activities, and communication skills exercises. Success will be measured by improvements in body-mass index (body fat composition, weight, height), blood pressure, A1C test results, HIV knowledge, and physical activity/exercise as measured by a wrist pedometer.

“The purpose is to empower older Hispanic women with interventions tailored to their unique cultural and physical needs,” says Cianelli. “This allows us to create a supportive community, promote social interaction, and encourage healthy sexual behaviors among individuals who share cultural, ethnic, generational, and gender affinities.”

¡ActuaYa! is one of three new BFit grants the Community Foundation awarded from a total of 15 applications. BFit grants support projects designed to help adults make healthy choices and increase their activity levels. According to the Foundation, about 66% of adults in Broward County are considered overweight and 24% are considered obese. “For the sake of our community, we must take bold action on this issue,” said Linda Carter, the Foundation’s president and CEO. “Diseases related to chronic obesity are the second leading cause of death, behind cigarette smoking.”

According to America’s Health Rankings, the prevalence of obesity in Hispanic women is 50.6%, just below that of non-Hispanic black women (54.8%) and well above that of non-Hispanic white women (38%). In a preliminary study Cianelli conducted, 70% of Hispanic women age 50 and older self-reported as being overweight and not physically active.

“Importantly, many of these risk factors are largely modifiable,” says Cianelli, a Judo instructor who has studied the role exercise plays in preventing chronic disease and the disabilities that come with it. “Physical activity and exercise convey an array of health-related benefits for older adults. Practicing exercise at older ages has been shown to increase self-esteem, decrease depression symptoms, promote a healthy body weight, and contribute to managing and improving chronic diseases.”

Support for this project has been provided by the following Funds at the Community Foundation of Broward:

Deinhardt Charitable Fund
Maxine Powers Hofert Fund
Norman R. and Ruth Rales Fund
Kresge Unrestricted Fund

To read the Foundation’s announcement, visit

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