December 31, 2012

High School Students Share Their Thoughts on Smoking

A group of high school students who live in the Dove Springs community of Austin, Texas share their honest thoughts, feelings, and experiences on smoking. Some of them have decided not to smoke in the first place because they have seen how badly it affects the health of their older relatives. Others did try smoking, but they quickly learned it made them feel horrible.

Alejandro - 17 years old - "When I was younger, I got asthma from cigarrettes because my family smoked so much. It persuaded me not to smoke."

Monica - 17 years old - "I want to say I started smoking because a lot of my family members did it - cigarrettes were easy to get, because they were everywhere. The reason I stopped smoking is because I want to have a healthy lifestyle - I noticed the impacts it was having on my health...I couldn't run without running out of breath."

Fred - 16 years old - "My grandma smokes, but it makes the house smell. My uncles smokes, too - it reeks up the kitchen. I fear that smoking will affect them - I hope that nothing happens to them."

Marta - 18 years old - "I don't like smoking because it's very unattractive to me. My uncle actually suffers from lung cancer, and I've seen him suffer throughout the years."

Louie - 18 years old - "The reason I don't smoke [anymore] because the side effects were starting to get to me, it was really bad for my body. And I noticed that my teeth were also getting yellow."

Wendy - 18 years old - "My dad was smoking a pack a day for 35 years. My mom tells he had anger issues, and she couldn't take it anymore. She asked him, for his child's sake, to stop. And he actually did."

View the video below with interviews of high school students from the Dove Springs community of Austin, Texas. See what they think and feel about smoking!

December 24, 2012

Youth and Smoking

Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website to see the references for this article and for more information about smoking and your health.

Smoking and smokeless tobacco use are initiated and established primarily during adolescence. More than 80% of adult smokers begin smoking before 18 years of age. Additionally, adolescent smokeless tobacco users are more likely than nonusers to become adult cigarette smokers.

Youth cigarette use declined sharply during 1997–2003. Since that time, rates have declined far more slowly.

Each day in the United States, approximately 3,800 young people under 18 years of age smoke their first cigarette, and an estimated 1,000 youth in that age group become daily cigarette smokers.

Some factors associated with youth tobacco use include the following:
  • Low socioeconomic status 
  • Use and approval of tobacco use by peers or siblings 
  • Exposure to smoking in movies 
  • Lack of skills to resist influences to tobacco use 
  • Smoking by parents or guardians and/or lack of parental support or involvement 
  • Accessibility, availability, and price of tobacco products 
  • A perception that tobacco use is the norm 
  • Low levels of academic achievement 
  • Low self-image or self-esteem 
  • Exposure to tobacco advertising 
  • Aggressive behavior (e.g., fighting, carrying weapons)

December 17, 2012

Secondhand Smoke: Impact on Asthma

Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website to see the references for this article and for more information about smoking and your health.

What Is Asthma?

Asthma is a disease that affects the lungs. Asthma is an ongoing condition, but asthma attacks occur when something irritates the lungs. An asthma attack happens in the body’s airways, which are the "tubes" that carry air into and out of the lungs. During an asthma attack, the walls of the airways in the lungs swell, and the airways narrow. Less air gets in and out of the lungs, and mucus from the lungs clogs up the airways even more. During an attack, a person may have coughing, chest tightness, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. In rare cases, asthma attacks lead to death.

How Common Is Asthma?

Asthma is the most common long-term disease of children, but adults can have asthma, too. The number of people diagnosed with asthma grew by 4.3 million from 2001 to 2009. In 2010, 8.2% (18.7 million) of U.S. adults had asthma and 9.4% (7 million) of U.S. children had asthma.4,5 In 2007, there were 17 million hospital physician office visits with asthma as the primary diagnosis.6 Asthma was linked to 3,388 deaths in 2009.

What Are the Risk Factors for Asthma?

No one knows why some people get asthma and others don’t, but if someone in a family has asthma, other family members are also more likely to have it. What is better known is what can trigger an asthma attack—these include particles or conditions that irritate the lungs.

Asthma triggers include:
  • Tobacco smoke 
  • Outdoor air pollution 
  • Cockroaches and their droppings 
  • Furry pets 
  • Mold 
  • Dust mites 
  • Respiratory infections like a common cold 
  • Strenuous physical exercise 
  • Some medicines (e.g., aspirin, ibuprofen) 
  • Certain weather, such as thunderstorms, high humidity, or cold temperatures 
  • Some foods and food additives 
  • Strong emotional states, like stress, which can lead to hyperventilation 

How Is Exposure to Secondhand Smoke Related to Asthma?

Secondhand smoke is a mixture of gases and fine particles that includes:
  • Smoke from a burning cigarette, cigar, or pipe tip 
  • Smoke that has been exhaled or breathed out by the person or people smoking 
  • More than 7,000 chemicals, including hundreds that are toxic and about 70 that can cause cancer 
For children who have asthma, breathing secondhand smoke can trigger an attack. The attack can be severe enough to send a child to the hospital. In rare cases, an asthma attack is so severe that a child dies.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Asthma and Asthma Attacks?

Asthma causes repeated episodes (or attacks) of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing, especially at night and in the early morning.

How Is Asthma Treated?

There is no cure for asthma. However, asthma can be controlled by knowing the warning signs of an attack and treating an attack early, staying away from things that trigger an attack, and following the advice of a doctor or other medical professional. Controlling asthma will —
  • Reduce or eliminate symptoms such as wheezing or coughing Improve sleep 
  • Reduce missed work or school 
  • Improve the ability to be physically active 
  • Reduce the chance of having to go to the hospital 
People with asthma do not all take the same medicine. Some take medicines that can be inhaled, or breathed in, and some take pills. Asthma medicines come in two types — quick-relief and long-term control. Quick-relief medicines control the symptoms of an asthma attack. If someone with asthma needs to use quick-relief medicines often, he or she might want to consult their health care provider to see if a different medicine is needed. Long-term control medicines help reduce the frequency and severity of attacks, and quick-relief medicines treat an attack once it starts. Many people use both types of medicines. Asthma medicines can have side effects, but most side effects are mild and soon go away. Health care providers can give their patients information about the side effects of each medicine.

How Can Asthma Attacks Be Prevented?

It is unknown how to prevent someone from developing asthma. It is easier to determine how to avoid things that trigger attacks in people who have asthma. Staying far away from tobacco smoke is one important way to avoid asthma attacks. Some other helpful tips are:
  • Do not allow anyone to smoke anywhere in or near your home. Some of the smoke stays in the house even if people only smoke near an open window. 
  • Do not allow anyone to smoke in the car, even with the windows down. No amount of secondhand smoke is safe. 
  • Make sure children’s day care centers and schools are tobacco-free. For schools, a tobacco-free campus policy means no tobacco use or advertising on school property is allowed by anyone at any time. This includes off-campus school events. 
  • If your state still allows smoking in public areas, look for restaurants and other places that do not allow smoking. “No-smoking sections” in the same restaurant with “smoking sections” do not protect adequately from secondhand smoke. 
  • Teach children to stay away from secondhand smoke. Be a good role model by not smoking.

December 10, 2012

Sergio's Story: Why He Quit Smoking

Sergio is originally from Laredo, Texas, and he moved to Austin in 1996 to work at AMD as a technician. He started smoking when he was 17 years old as a senior in high school. "It wasn't peer pressure," he explains. "It was just the thing to do."

At first, Sergio thought smoking was pretty bad, but then it became a natural thing. He smoked for 10 years until his late 20s. Smoking was something to do at nights with friends at the clubs while dancing. After a while, it was more like a way to deal with hunger, especially being a single guy. It was also a relaxing activity, and he did it to generally pass the time.

One of the Sergio noticed about smoking, especially after smoking two packs in one evening, was that the next day, he would have a hard time breathing, and he'd blow black stuff out of his nose. Whenever he'd get sick, it was worse than usual.

In 2001, he met his future wife - she wasn't into smoking, so he couldn't smoke around her. And at that time, he also got very sick with a sore throat. Between not being able to smoke due to social reasons and health reasons, he simply let it go. Even when he tried to pick up smoking again, he found it made him feel very ill.

Ultimately, he stopped smoking for his wife and his future family. He hasn't smoked since then. In 2003 got married and now has two daughters. He enjoys being with his family and having fun with them.

Watch the video interview below!

December 3, 2012

Hispanics and Smoking: Basic Facts

12.5% of Hispanic adults in the United States smoke cigarettes. This percentage is less than the general population (19.1%). Compared to the general population, Hispanics smoke less cigarettes per day, and they also tend to be non-daily or intermittent smokers. Because of this, it's easy to believe that tobacco addiction - or smoking in general - isn't a problem in the Hispanic community. To understand the problem of smoking among Hispanics, we have to look past the percentages and to the reasons why they smoke.

Men smoke more - 15.8% of Hispanic men smoke, while only 9% of women smoke.

Hispanics from certain countries smoke more - In 2008, a study showed that in the United States the following rates of smoking per nationality: 21.5% of Cubans, 18.6% of Puerto Ricans, 15.8% of Mexicans, 12.8% of South/Central Americans, and 10.7% of Dominicans.

Those who are born in the United States smoke more - Among Mexicans who live in the United States, 20.1% of those born here smoke, compared to 11.6% of immigrants. A review of studies found that increased smoking prevalence was observed with increased acculturation among Hispanic women, but not for Hispanic men.

"Although the percentage of Hispanics who smoke is less than the general population, Hispanic people have a more difficult time quitting smoking," says. Dr. Yessenia Castro from the University of Texas at Austin. "It's important to understand the social reasons why we smoke."

Many times, Hispanics don't smoke because of addiction, but rather, because of social pressure, or because smoking offers a way to elevate one's socio-economic status. Among women, sometimes it's because it offers a way to express certain social freedoms that weren't possible in their country of origin. Many times, it's because of stress from work or being far away from one's family.

For people who don't consider smoking an addiction, it's easy to not think of it as a problem. The way of thinking is...if I'm not an addict, then I don't have to quit. But smoking causes health problems, even if it's not an addiction.

"Hispanics are less likely to seek out professional help, or to use medical treatments to quit smoking. It's also less probably that medical professionals will ask them about their smoking habits, or that they will offer them resources and help to quit smoking," adds Dr. Castro.

The Hispanic community faces many obstacles that make it more difficult to quit smoking and to recover from addiction. Especially in low-income areas, there is little or no access to the following:
  • Professional/medical help
  • Information or resources in Spanish
  • Education about health and the consequences of smoking
Smoking causes many health problems, such as heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, and cancer - especially lung cancer. Cancer is the second leading cause among Hispanics - 1 in 5 (or 20%) of Hispanics die from cancer, and smoking is the main cause of cancer.

"Some medical professional recommend that we use our social networks as an effective way to encourage Hispanics to quit smoking," comments Dr. Castro. "Social support is very important, especially in helping our family members and friends who smoke, to understand the hardships caused by addiction and the harm it does to children."

Live Tobacco Free Austin has great resources to get you started if you're looking to quit smoking, or you're wanting to help a friend or family member quit. It's also available in Spanish.

You can also download a fact sheet about Hispanics and Smoking from the American Legacy Foundation.

Yessenia Castro, Ph.D., earned her doctoral degree in clinical psychology from The Florida State University in 2008. She completed a postdoctoral training program at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in 2010 that focused on disparities-related research among minority and underserved populations, with an emphasis on smoking cessation among Latinos. 

She is an Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Texas at Austin, where she studies the influence of cultural adaptation variables on cancer risk behavior among Latinos. She is particularly interested in understanding how cultural variables combine with known key determinants of smoking to affect cessation outcomes. Her work also incorporates understanding determinants of multiple cancer risk behaviors among Latinos, and she collaborates on research examining social determinants of smoking cessation among individuals of low socioeconomic status and other special populations of smokers.

October 1, 2012

Little Dudes Are Active

Little Dudes Yoga

Little Dudes in the Playground

"We want to give kids a healthy start in life!" Pat Smith runs her preschool like a fitness camp: Children get led in 1 to 2 hours of real active play every day, with plenty of time for free play too. The playground has shaded areas and lots of fun things to play with and on. The staff works hard to keep the children moving, outside and in.

How many preschools have yoga classes? Little Dudes does all it can to build healthy lifestyles!

September 24, 2012

Set Your Goal Today - Gold, Bronze, or Silver?

Dr. Pont dares you to be active... 

"Being active is fun. It burns fat and stress, and it helps prevent diabetes, heart attacks, strokes and cancer.

I try now to get at least 2-3 hours of activity every week, more when we can as a family.

Can you be active too? Try setting a weekly medal goal."

--Dr. Stephen Pont, AISD Medical Director

GOLD - 5 hours a week - improves your health

SILVER - 2 1/2 hours a week - keeps you healthy

BRONZE - 1 1/2 hours a week - better than nothing!

Set your goal TODAY and get support...

…join the others in the Dove Springs community! 

Choose one of the following options: 

  • Send the text* "activo" with your goal 84444* 
  • Leave a comment on our Facebook wall: 
  • Leave a comment at the bottom of this blog post 

*text charges may apply

September 17, 2012

Chacon Family Leads an Active Life


Edgar and Rubi Chacon’s family leads an active life: Edgar walks more than 7 miles a week at work. Rubi chases their toddler Emmanuel around all day. Andrew spends an hour every day in 9th grade basketball drills. Jennifer and Daisy get a lot of vigorous play in PE at school. But that’s not enough...they have strict limits on TV time (but enjoy family DVD movie night at home).

On Sundays they walk a mile or two and get a workout at the park playground to reach the “silver” activity level: At least 2 1/2 hours of exercise a week!

Sunday walks are special for Andrew and his father as they get a chance to talk about things they might not have time for otherwise. The whole family feels closer in their playtime together.

The Chacons also accepted Dr. Pont’s no-soda-in-the-school-week challenge last month, and they took it way further: They never drink sodas, just a lot of water and things like fresh pineapple juice. Fast food is rare and things like homemade chicken vegetable soup are the usual evening meal.


Jennifer and Daisy (English)

Andrew (English with Spanish subtitles)

Rubi (Spanish)

Edgar (English with Spanish subtitles)

September 10, 2012

No Soda Stories: Arleng and Isabel

Arlen and Isabel from the Dove Springs community in East Austin each tell their stories about how they stopped drinking soda (in Spanish):

September 3, 2012

Water: Cheaper and Healthier Than Soda

Frances shows us the difference in price between sodas and pure, plain water (video is in Spanish):

August 27, 2012

Aguas Frescas

We love aguas frescas!

Favian Montemayor and Frances Acuña of Dove Springs
For the sake of their health, Frances Acuña's family in Dove Springs only drinks sodas on special occasions. At first, it was difficult getting used to it, but now they are happy to live without sodas. They feel better, and they have more energy. (Click here to watch the videos where Frances and her family talk about their experiences not drinking sodas.)

What's more Frances and her husband Favian, and their two sons discovered they prefer to make their own aguas frescas at home on special occasions, instead of drinking soda. It's more fun, more refreshing, and much healthier. Here they share their recipe for "agua de pepino" (cucumber juice).

Frances Acuña and her famous "agua de pepino"
Easy Recipe for "Agua de Pepino"

  • 2 cucumbers 
  • 1 liter of water 
  • NO MORE than 1/4 cup (less is better - too much sugar is unhealthy!)
  • Lime juice to taste

Mix all the ingredients in a blender, and your "agua de pepino" will be ready to drink in just a few minutes. A glass contains less than half the calories of a can of soda...and it's just so much better.

WATCH THE VIDEO (in Spanish):

Little brother Ricardo Acuña
drinking his watermelon juice
(but he mostly drinks plain water!)
Favian Junior and his little brother Ricardo are glad they promised not to drink sodas during the school week. Favian Jr. says, "It's easy to say 'no' and drink water instead of soda."

Adjusting to a life without soda wasn't a problem for little Ricardo either. Now he loves cucumber and watermelon juice, especially after playing ball outside with his dad and older brother. Every Sunday afternoon before dinner, Favian Sr. and his two sons enjoy some kind of sport activity in their backyard.

Although they've switched from sodas to "aguas frescas" for special occasions, they still drink water every day. Pure, plain water is always the healthiest option!

Diet Sodas
"Diet sodas can be free of calories, but
not free from the health consequences." 
-- Dr. Helen Hazuta

What about diet sodas? They are WORSE because they falsely lead us to believe that they are a healthy alternative and they don't cause us to gain weight.  más saludables y que no nos hacen engordar.

Researchers in San Antonio discovered that diet sodas can be equal to or worse than regular sodas, in terms of negative health effects. In studies they did over a period of 9 years, they found that people who drank two or more sodas daily gained weight five times faster than those who didn't drink any diet sodas at all.

Furthermore, when people consume artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, which is present in diet sodas, they are at higher risk for diabetes, as well as other illnesses and health problems. (Faculty of the School of Medicine, University of Texas San Antonio -- ScienceDaily, 6-28-2011)

Favian Junior says NO to soda!
Avoid All Drinks High in Sugar

The best thing is to not drink any kinds of sodas -- neither diet or regular. Even many of the juices, sports beverages, and fruit-flavored punches marketed to children contain way too much sugar.  The healthiest alternative is to drink water or "aguas frescas" with very little sugar (or no sugar at all -- some fruit provides natural sweeteners!).

Say NO to Soda!

What are your favorite recipes for "aguas frescas"? 

Share them with us in the comment section below!

Favian and his sons enjoy a game of soccer before enjoying an "agua fresca"

August 20, 2012

No Soda Stories: Frances Acuna and Her Family

Have you or your family promised not to drink soda?

Share your experience with us! Leave us a comment below or on Facebook, or send us your own video via email to

August 13, 2012

Say No to Soda Challenge

Do you want to be healthy? Do you want your kids to grow up healthy?

Join us at the Manantial del Salud Dove Springs Health Network and accept Dr. Stephen Pont's challenge to not drink sodas (see the video below) -- or any sugary beverage or juice -- during the school week!

To make an individual or family promise, choose one of the three options below:
  1. Sent the text* "sinsoda" to 84444 (*your cell phone provider may charge for text messages)
  2. Send an email to
  3. Leave a comment on our Facebook page:

Your doctor recommends: No sodas during the school week!

"Obesity is a terrible affliction for Latinos in Austin. We need to do many things to fight obesity, and one of the easiest and most important things we can do is to not give our children sodas or other sugary drinks. I ask Latino families to accept this challenge and promise to not drink sodas during the school week. This will help your children's health and education."
--Dr. Stephen Pont, Health Director for the Austin Independent School District (AISD)

August 6, 2012

Obesity in Children

Why are Hispanic children at greater risk for obesity, as well as diabetes caused by obesity? Watch this video and find out...

Manantial de Salud -- Dove Springs Health Network -- will confront all of the major health challenges in our community, starting with obesity, which causes high rates of diabetes among Latinos, along with hundreds of preventable deaths.

In Austin, Texas 40% of Hispanics suffer from diabetes...while only 20% of Non-Hispanic Whites suffer from this terrible disease. It's clear that obesity has become an epidemic in our city, particularly in our Hispanic communities. 

The red zones in the map below show the high concentrations of overweight and obese children -- most of them are in the Dove Springs area.

"Obesity is a terrible affliction for Latinos in Austin," comments Dr. Stephen Pont, Health Director for the Austin Independent School District (AISD). "We need to do many things to fight obesity, and one of the easiest and most important things we can do is to not give our children sodas or other sugary drinks. I ask Latino families to accept this challenge and promise to not drink sodas during the school week. This will help your children's health and education."

It's a serious problem, and sometimes it's complicated. But let's start with an easy solution!

All of us -- especially our children who are at a critical time in their lives where they are developing physically and mentally -- should make it a point to drink less soda and more water. 

The challenge we present to you, on behalf of the Manantial de Salud Dove Springs Health Network, is to not drink any sodas (including sports/energy drinks or juices with lots of sugar or artificial sweeteners) during the school week.

The next challenge we present is to set weekly exercise goals - at LEAST 1 1/2 hours per week, but we  encourage you to aim for the gold level of 5 hours per week.

Say NO to soda!

Get active!

What do you think of these challenges? Let us know...