Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Building Educational Partnerships to Serve Latinos in Central California

Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Building Educational Partnerships to Serve Latinos in Central California

Article excerpt

Abstract To address declining resources serving low-income families, seven agencies were formed into an agency partnership to test the feasibility of the partnership and its effectiveness in nutrition education for Latinos. Partnership participants assessed the needs and methodology that could be incorporated into their existing programs and extended a standardized nutrition curriculum. No additional budget or staff were added. Interagency cooperation was greatly increased. Significant gain in nutrition knowledge and practices related to fats sugars, and vegetables and fruits were identified among participating families independent of teaching mode. Well after project completion, five of the seven agencies continue incorporating the education curriculum into their programs.

The need for partnerships in nutrition education has increased recently as a result of decreased budgets and limited staff prepared to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse population. Rosenberg et al. (1992) indicated no institutions, nor professions, programs, and services, can be separated from their times. Present economic pressures make it necessary that agencies move from independent to closely coordinated efforts targeted to meet the needs of specific demographic groups.

Community involvement was recommended in the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Report, "Diet and Health." It stated that "...if one of the nutrition goals is to reduce the risk of chronic disease, and if dietary modification is likely to assist in achieving that goal, then various sectors of society need to collaborate in implementing dietary recommendations of the type proposed by the committee" (National Research Council, 1989). More recent work has equally emphasized the need for integrating agencies' resources and goals to more efficiently implement nutrition programs (Paul, 1996).

This article describes the concept of agency partnerships and how it was applied in a nutrition education program for Latinos in Madera, a community in central California. The partnership was an integrated effort between the University of California Cooperative Extension, Women's, Infant, Children Program (WIC), Head Start, Migrant Education, Madera Family Health Clinic, Senior Citizens Center, and Housing Authority.

The purpose of the project was to test the feasibility and effectiveness of the partnership concept in improving selected nutrition knowledge and dietary practices among low-literacy Latino families.

Understanding Partnerships

Partnerships are strategic alliances involving a close relationship between parties that have specific joint rights and responsibilities (Rosenberg et al., 1992). Partnerships are efforts based on mutual trust directed at broadening organized actions with the purpose of achieving common goals while maximizing resources.

Terms of participation can be temporary or long. The agreements between participants can be informal or formal. Partnerships can rank from relatively loosely linked coalitions to strongly connected partners, whose purposes are very specific and often long term (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Disease Control, 1990). Well planned partnerships can benefit all agencies and organizations involved by extending budgets as well as by sharing staff and other resources. Professionals and staff benefit from the exchange of knowledge and expertise. Intended consumers benefit from receiving uniform messages as opposed to conflicting information often offered by different programs. In addition, partnerships can facilitate the extension of services to audiences that otherwise would not be reached by an individual agency's program.

Successful education partnerships have been developed between local health agencies, and the food industry (Mullis, 1988); between health agencies and supermarkets, churches, schools, and restaurants (Elder et al., 1986); and between health agencies and the private industry, local professional associations, community organizations, and local universities (County of Fresno, 1990). …

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