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Collaboration addresses childhood hunger, obesity in SAISD schools exacerbated by COVID-19

May 21, 2021 – Childhood obesity has disproportionately affected Latino and 
Black communities in South Texas for years as a result of poverty, poor access to education, 
employment status, unhealthy housing, and exposure to a general disadvantage. In the wake of 
COVID-19, low-income and racial/ethnic minority families, particularly Latino and African 
American, are struggling with an even greater risk of health complications such as obesity, diabetes, 
respiratory ailments and other predisposing conditions, according to a report by the Centers for 
Disease Control. 

To help address the health inequity crisis, the Social and Health Research Center (SAHRC) of San 
Antonio has developed the Bienestar/Neema Coordinated School Health Program, an innovative 
digitized curriculum designed to engage children. The evidence-based program has been 
recognized by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institutes for Health (NIH).
The program is led by Dr. Roberto Treviño, M.D., a physician and noted author who founded the
SAHRC in 1995 to design and evaluate school health programs that target early age obesity and
type 2 diabetes prevention. Dr. Treviño is the principal investigator of the two largest trials funded
by the National Institutes of Health to prevent obesity and diabetes in children.

“We worked with young digital animators, ages 16 to 24, in four countries and the US who brought 
their diverse perspectives to help us create a digital interactive platform that is engaging for the 
many populations that we are reaching,” said Dr. Treviño. “We have already begun to see the 
impact of this curriculum, as young children are taking what they learn back to their families, 
encouraging them to make healthy choices as well. Using animation will make this program even 
more compelling.” 

SAHRC has partnered with the San Antonio Independent School District and other districts across
South Texas to use the healthcare curriculum to control and prevent obesity and related chronic 
diseases. The curriculum influences children and their families to make changes in their health
related behaviors. 

“As one of the fastest growing cities in the United States, San Antonio is committed to addressing 
the health needs of all of its citizens and our future generations,” said San Antonio Mayor Ron 
Nirenberg. “We are eager to help our children develop healthy habits by moving this effort forward 
with SAHRC and Quest Diagnostics. I want San Antonio to serve as a healthy lifestyle model to 
expand this innovative and interactive animated platform across the country.”

Quest Diagnostics [NYSE: DGX], the world's leading provider of testing and diagnostic 
insights, is collaborating with SAHRC to bring the curriculum to schools and communities where it is most needed, first in Texas and then across the United States. Quest Diagnostics and 
the Quest Diagnostics Foundation are supporting this effort as part of Quest for Health Equity
(Q4HE), an initiative focused on providing resources, funding, testing services and education to 
address health disparities in underserved communities across the U.S. 

“Enhancing the health and well-being of underserved communities was a critical need before the 
pandemic, and is even more so today,” said Steve Rusckowski, Chairman, CEO and President of 
Quest Diagnostics. “We know childhood obesity is dramatically growing in underserved 
communities and that these resources are needed throughout the United States. Our goal is to 
support the digital evolution of this powerful curriculum to make it more appealing to today’s youth 
and more affordable for key school districts’ adoption across the country.” 

Recently, SAHRC engaged Americas Council for the Creative Economy (ACCE), a social purpose 
driven nonprofit company, to work with youth creators, to convert its entire curriculum for children 
from a textbook into a digital interactive animation platform, making it more economical for school 
districts and more compelling and engaging for students. The platform utilizes age-appropriate full
motion 3-D animated characters, animated sing-alongs and tutorials, and the gamification of 
quizzes and tests to engage, inform and entertain students. 

“We assembled a team of over 45 former students in Argentina, Colombia, Guatemala, Jamaica and 
the U.S. to convert SAHRC’s curriculum, which for them has been a labor of love,” said Mark 
Marion, ACCE’s Founder & Commercial Director. 

Through digitization of its content, the price for schools dropped from $18,000 for the printed
version to under $1,000 for the digitized version.

“The dramatic decrease in the cost of the curriculum makes it accessible for school districts 
serving low-income communities,” said Superintendent Pedro Martinez of the San Antonio, 
Texas Independent School District. “This puts the resource within reach so our students can 
improve their health and quality of life.”

The Bienestar/Neema curriculum will initially target more than 180,000 children and their families
in Texas and New Jersey. From these states, plans include reaching close to a million students in 10 
school districts in four other states in the U.S. 

About the Social and Health Research Center, Inc
The Social and Health Research Center (SAHRC) was founded and established by Dr. Roberto 
Treviño, a physician, in 1991. SAHRC was incorporated as a non-profit organization with 501 (c) 
(3) status in 1995. The center is committed to the social and health well-being of populations most 
at-risk. The goals of SAHRC are to detect and reduce obesity and its associated chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The objective is to develop and implement Research Tested health programs to prevent and manage obesity and associated chronic diseases; and design 
evaluation tools to assess program effectiveness.

About Quest Diagnostics
Quest Diagnostics empowers people to take action to improve health outcomes. Derived from 
the world's largest database of clinical lab results, Quest’s diagnostic insights reveal new 
avenues to identify and treat disease, inspire healthy behaviors and improve health care 
management. Quest Diagnostics annually serves one in three adult Americans and half the 
physicians and hospitals in the United States, and our nearly 49,000 employees understand that, 
in the right hands and with the right context, our diagnostic insights can inspire actions that 
transform lives.

About Quest for Health Equity
Quest for Health Equity is an initiative of Quest Diagnostics and the Quest Diagnostics
Foundation), focused on providing resources, funding, testing services and education to 
address health disparities in underserved communities across the U.S.

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