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Ph.D. Student Awarded Research!America Microgrant to Bring Wellness Event Series to Little Havana

The Health eLifestyles Lab, led by Dr. Sara Mijares St. George, of the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine has been awarded grant funding for a four-part community event series in Little Havana. This event series, titled ¡Vámos a Movernos (Let’s Move) Little Havana!, is organized in partnership with a local non-profit community organization, Healthy Little Havana.

The grant, led by Vanessa Morales, M.S.P.H., a Ph.D. student in the Prevention Science and Community Health, has enabled the lab to provide community members with the opportunity to engage in physical activity through free Zumba classes, gain access to educational resources on the negative health outcomes that disproportionately affect the Hispanic population, and learn about protective healthy lifestyle behaviors.

Each event in the series features an educational session on health topics such as diabetes, cholesterol, blood pressure, and mental health. After each session, community members are invited to participate in a Zumba class led by local fitness instructors. The Health eLifestyles Lab team is also on-site at the events to provide free-of-charge body composition assessments and blood pressure, and glucose screenings to the community. Several community organizations, including  Hope for Miami, the Florida Department of HealthRun Little Havana, and the UM Family Navigator program, have also attended the events to provide attendees with valuable information and resources about their services.

Dr. St. George expressed pride in Vanessa’s work and the team’s ability to engage with the community and provide valuable resources. “I am so proud of Vanessa’s efforts to write the grant and plan the events alongside Healthy Little Havana. This opportunity to serve the community has brought me immense joy and the ability to do so many things I love at the same time: dance, spend time with the community, and watch my students shine.”

The final event of the series, centered on mental and physical health, will take place on Saturday, April 22 at 9 A.M. at Domino Park. Attendees can participate in a paired salsa class and have the chance to win exciting prizes such as a Fitbit and Zumba class with the creator of Zumba, Beto Perez.

The ¡Vámos a Movernos (Let’s Move) Little Havana! event series was made possible through Research!America Civic Engagement Microgrant Program, which funds groups led by STEM graduate students and postdoctoral students for the purpose of designing and executing projects that promote dialogue with public officials, community leaders, and the general public regarding issues of mutual interest. These funds provide grantees with the opportunity to acquire expertise in areas such as communication and program planning, as well as a comprehension of public policy and government, with the goal of making a positive impact on their communities.

“The event series has had a significant impact on the Little Havana community because not only is it a fitness series, but it includes important health information that can have an impact on their long term health. We are very thankful that we get to see the positive results of the accessibility of these classes to our community,” said Emily Bodden, Program Manager, Healthy Little Havana.

Vanessa shared her excitement about the collaboration and expressed gratitude to Research!America for supporting their efforts to uplift the community through the event series. She said, “We are thrilled to have been able to bring the ¡Vámos a Movernos Little Havana! event series to the community.”

“The energy and enthusiasm from community members have been infectious, and it’s been so much fun to bring everyone together for these events. This collaboration is a great reminder of the power of community partnerships and their positive impact on health and wellness initiatives. We are grateful to Research!America for supporting our efforts to engage and uplift the community through this event series.”