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The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio has named Dr. Julie La Barba Medical Director for its groundbreaking new program designed to drive healthy eating and tackle childhood obesity in San Antonio March 23, 2015

The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio has named Dr. Julie La Barba Medical Director for its groundbreaking new program designed to drive healthy eating and tackle childhood obesity in San Antonio.

The program, known as CHEF which stands for Culinary Health Education for Families, is funded by a generous grant from Goldsbury Foundation. “The Children’s Hospital has always been a trusted source for parents with sick or injured children, and now we are enhancing that image by focusing on ways families can maintain good health with nutrition and culinary education, a teaching kitchen, and two-and-a-half acres of gardens surrounding the hospital,” La Barba said.

The teaching kitchen, designed by the Culinary Institute of America, will feature healthy cooking demonstrations as well as hands-on teaching opportunities for individuals and families who are motivated to improve their health through better nutrition. The program is part of the Hospital’s $135 million transformation that is underway on its downtown campus to give San Antonio a world-class, free-standing children’s hospital.

“Cooking delicious and satisfying meals that also happen to be good for families doesn’t have to require expensive ingredients or gourmet cooking skills,” said LaBarba. “Seventy percent of chronic health conditions associated with obesity are preventable. Conditions such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke are largely attributed to issues related such as diet and exercise. One out of every three San Antonio school-age children are overweight or obese.”

In partnership with H-E-B and CentroMed, the CHEF program recently launched its first research project unveiling Prescriptions for Produce, a pilot program that focuses on the health of pregnant women and their unborn babies through providing physician-prescribed vouchers for $40 worth of fruits and vegetables at H-E-B each month during their pregnancy. The program includes a one-hour guided shopping tour by an H-E-B registered dietitian and a cooking class. Participants will attend monthly nutritional counseling at their doctor’s office throughout their pregnancy to continue receiving monthly vouchers for produce. If they complete the full nine-month program, new moms will receive a set of cookware.

“This program is unique in that we are not only increasing access to healthy food during a woman’s pregnancy, but we are ensuring that the moms graduate from the program with a better understanding of how to shop for, select and prepare nutritious food at home. We stand behind the concept that small dietary changes can have a big impact on health,” La Barba added.

La Barba is no newcomer to San Antonio or the Children’s Hospital. She earned her medical degree at the University of Texas Health Science Center–San Antonio and completed her residency at University Hospital and the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio (formerly CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Children’s Hospital). La Barba grew up in an Italian produce family and learned to appreciate real food at an early age. This experience, along with extensive training for public health education and research, fostered her professional commitment to children’s nutrition. La Barba also serves as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics for Baylor College of Medicine. She is among the more than 170 physicians recruited by Baylor College of Medicine to become part of the medical staff of the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio and ensure the children of San Antonio and South Texas have access to world-class medical care and treatment.