|COHeAL emerged as a response to the need for action-based research to address the health of individuals through evidence-based methods. Our commitment to the community with which we collaborate expands beyond research to inform best practices and policies. We have responded to the emergent needs of the community through volunteer work. Our interdisciplinary team has participated in humanitarian and health services assistance in alliance with multiple organizations of diverse backgrounds. We have successfully incorporated students into our missions, which has led to a formative process that has resulted in reinforcement and revisions of their chosen career path. More importantly, our integrated approach will have lasting effects on future healthcare professionals and their communities.
Currently COHeAL is supporting food security campaigns that target the reduction of sugary beverage consumption and improving the resources available to ensure nutritional security for our citizens as a healthy equity measure. As a Voices for Healthy Kids Community member sponsored by the American Heart Association, we have disseminated our work to stakeholders at different levels, including the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, & Health. Our group is searching for a facility and infrastructure to develop a specialized functional medicine treatment center for Puerto Rico. This space will provide access to evidence-based treatment strategies that are family centered and integrative by design, to promote health agency.
The need for such a space becomes even more evident as the American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes the role of primary care providers in achieving primary prevention and continuity of care of individuals suffering from obesity as a chronic illness. However, their current clinical care guidelines recognize the role of specialized centers for secondary prevention at the individual level. Our goal is to facilitate access to our population while maintaining our involvement in community-based actions to improve the health and well-being of our population. To that end, Dr. Maribel Campos Rivera is a Mayo Clinic trained Wellness Coach and Board Certified in Obesity Medicine. Dr. Campos is already Double Boarded in Pediatrics and Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine. This provides her the unique perspective of initiating obesity prevention from very early in life and implementing interventions at the family level. Our current research agenda targets the problem at different levels through qualitative and quantitative research, including two lifestyle intervention trials. Other members of our team include Dr. Ingrid V. Rodriguez Rivera, Board Certified in Lifestyle Medicine, María Kallis, Doctor in Nutrition Education, Dr. Yari Valle Moro, Public Health expert in Social Determinants of Health, Camilla García Rivero, Fish Laboratory Technician, and Dr. Lorelle López Mancebo, NIH Post-Doctoral Fellow in the effects of Violence exposure on women’s health.
Our current partnerships include stakeholders such as the Special Nutrition Program Women, Infants and Children, the Boys and Girls Club of Puerto Rico, Proyecto PILARES (a childhood obesity prevention program based on the University of Puerto Rico Rio Piedras Campus), the Puerto Rico College of Physicians and Surgeons, The Puerto Rico Pediatrics Society, Asociación de Médicos Pediatras del Oeste, George Washington University Community Resilience Center, Mayo Clinic, InSciEd Out Foundation, National Children’s Hospital, University of Chicago at Illinois, Puerto Rico Comprehensive Cancer Center, San Juan Bautista Research Unit, San Juan City Hospital, Association of Medical Directors, University of Puerto Rico Planning School, Puerto Rico INBRE program, The Hispanic Alliance, CETMA, Nexos group, Urban Strategies, Columbia University, University of Alabama at Birmingham, American University, Marshfield Reserch Institute, Florida International University, and the Asociación de Cuidado Primario. We have participated in various expert panels collaborating with the Puerto Rico Health Department, including developing the infant feeding guidelines.