A national network of researchers, advocates and policymakers, Salud America! is trying to reverse the current epidemic of Latino childhood obesity.

Dr. Amelie Ramirez, the network’s director, “This is going to be the first generation of children that are not going to outlive their parents.”

She said research shows 44 percent of boys and 38 percent of girls are overweight or obese, as compared to the overall national average of 31 percent.

Ramirez said those children are more likely to remain obese later in life, putting them at greater risk for Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some forms of cancer.

She said the March issue of the American Journal of Preventative Medicine includes a supplement on how to prevent and control obesity among the nation’s next generation of Latinos.

Ramirez said the suggestions vary from community gardens and cooking workshops to after-school fitness programs and parental training.

She said not only children find it difficult to accept healthy food choices, so do their parents.

“They need to see us eat the good foods that we’re trying to promote for them,” Ramirez said.

She suggests start slowly by introducing sample-sized portions that may be more enticing, perhaps once a week.

Since many are on limited budgets, Ramirez recommends parents learn how to make smarter choices at the grocery store by simply reading the labels, avoiding high salt and high calorie foods whenever possible.

Ramirez said parents also should keep trying since their child’s lifetime is at stake.

“We don’t want to see them go before us,” Ramirez said. “Parents need to take a very active role in encouraging their children to eat right.”

Ramirez also is the director of the Institute of Health Promotion Research at the UT Health Science Center.