The house was packed with kinesiology and public health students last month when Guadalupe X. “Suchi” Ayala, Professor of Public Health at San Diego State University, discussed ways of promoting healthy eating practices to mass populations.
Introduced by her brother, Emiliano C. Ayala, Dean of the College of Education, Health and Human Services (CEHHS), Suchi inspired and educated CSU San Marcos students and faculty with data, scenarios and real-life experiences that encourage community members to eat healthier, but also to be sure that their children are eating healthier.
Suchi has led the development of numerous evidence-based interventions, including multi-component interventions that involved working with small-to-medium-sized Latino grocery stores (tiendas) to increase fruit and vegetable consumption among store customers through social and structural changes; preventing and controlling childhood obesity through policy, systems and environmental changes; and, working with restaurants to promote healthy child menus.
In her research, Suchi believed it was important to work directly with community partners and to gather data quickly. She did not predict that grocery and restaurant managers would be so cooperative; to her surprise, they were eager and interested in collaborating. Managers were concerned; they did not want to lose customers due to health issues or poor eating habits.
Suchi began by researching family eating habits, the food choices they made and who made the choices.
Her approach to researching disparities was initially focused on behaviors and targeting the leading causes of chronic diseases such as diet. She also focused on family dynamics, as well as where foods were purchased and where families were dining. In the grocery stores (tiendas), Suchi’s mission was to promote the sales and consumption of fruits and vegetables by making them more available and promoting them to customers and employees. In restaurants, she worked with managers to redesign children menus to make them appealing to children and healthy.
“It was successful,” Suchi said. We shifted about 23% of purchases from unhealthy to healthy in menu plus versus 17% in menu-only restaurants. We can’t feed our kids just boats of cheese and French fries.”
“It was truly an honor and pleasure to speak with the students, staff, and faculty of CSUSM. This institution will always hold a special place in my heart!”
This event was sponsored by the Instructionally Related Activities award and is part of the Distinguished Public Health Speaker Series; Hosted by the CSUSM Health Disparities Working Group.
For more information, please contact:
Guadalupe X. “Suchi” Ayala
Professor of Public Health at San Diego State University
Assistant Professor in Kinesiology at CSU San Marcos
Assistant Professor in Public Health at CSU San Marcos
Communication Specialist II
College of Education, Health & Human Services