Pascale is beginning her fourth year in the School of Art and Design as a double major in graphic design and painting. She is particularly interested in positive design thinking and how it can be used to improve nutrition education. Pascale is motivated to respond to the need for the creation of visual tools that help all families better understand health information to promote health equity. Her motivation led her to work with Abriendo Caminos, where she has been designing nutrition education materials with evidence-based information culturally tailored for Hispanic heritage audiences. As a child of immigrant Latino parents, Pascale’s bicultural experience has helped her connect and empathize with the needs of the communities with whom she works. Pascale hopes to work in a design firm where she can apply positive design thinking to health and nutrition topics.
Pascale is continuing her work with Dr. Margarita Teran-Garcia, Abriendo Caminos, and the Multicultural Community Center (MCC) in Rantoul, IL to identify the best tools and opportunities to promote culturally tailored health messages on improving behaviors related to nutrition, physical activity, and positive family function (including mealtimes). Teran-Garcia’s team is translating evidence-based science to develop Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) activities that promote health and wellness among children and families of Hispanic-heritage.
The work that Pascale is doing with Teran-Garcia has both immediate and long-term community impacts. Abriendo Caminos presents workshops and education to local families. Martha Gonzales, Executive Director of MCC, appreciates that MCC’s Hispanic families receive this culturally tailored support and education to improve their health and wellness in ways that are affordable and accessible to them. Teran-Garcia and her team also collect feedback to improve the program. “The MCC is a great example of how our local community participates interactively with our research team to address complex problems of health among Hispanic families. As a principle of CBPR, we listen to the concerns of members of the MCC and develop new programmatic activities in response to their requests,” says Teran-Garcia. For instance, Pascale designed a tote bag and grocery pad to encourage healthy food selection by listing healthy foods to purchase as well as foods or ingredients to limit. The Abriendo Caminos team brought Pascale’s prototypes to the MCC to survey parents on whether they would use the items. After receiving very positive responses, Abriendo Caminos produced these items to share with families in their program and in University of Illinois Extension’s Hispanic Health Program activities throughout the state.
For Pascale, this work has been both eye-opening and gratifying. “It’s helped me understand the deeper roots that this health crisis has beyond the surface level of ‘overconsumption of food = obesity,’ ” she says. She has also gained valuable experience with research that she isn’t exposed to in her regular studies: conducting a literature review, summarizing evidence-based information, and using new methodologies. She has enjoyed being involved with work that has such a positive impact. “It’s exciting to see the university give back to the local community in very creative ways. The resources that Abriendo Caminos provides for the families are really insightful and impactful, and it’s been an honor to be able to contribute to that positivity.”