During the month of June, Spanish TV network Univision is rallying its viewers to join a new online program to lose weight, improve nutrition and live a healthier life. Called Reto 28, or Challenge 28, the free program provides participants with daily menus, recipes and video clips that offer ideas on everything from simple at-home exercises to better ways to stock the kitchen, all geared towards helping the Hispanic community improve well-being.
Within two hours of the program’s on-air announcement on June 1st by medical correspondent Dr. Juan Rivera, more than 20,000 people had signed up and more than 230,000 page views were tallied. In the first 72 hours, more than 125,000 people had registered, with 1.8 million page views.
“The main reason I think it’s going to be very successful is because people need it,” says Rivera, citing a recent government report showing the mortality rate from diabetes to be 50 percent higher in Hispanics compared with whites and that Hispanics are among the U.S. groups with the highest percentage of overweight and obese individuals.
“We wanted to do something in response to the current status of the health of Hispanics that will allow them to take control of their health—that will allow them to change,” Rivera says.
The American Heart Association is collaborating with Univision’s Reto 28 by providing content about exercise guidelines, while Rivera worked with nutritionist Sabrina Hernandez-Cano and chef Doreen Colondres to create the Reto 28 menus.
The 28-day plan “is basically a balanced diet—this is no starvation diet or anything like that,” Rivera says. “We’re telling people what they should have for breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack and dinner, with special recipes that are culturally sensitive, and we made sure of that by bringing in a Latin chef and using Latin spices to make sure people feel as if this is still their own food.”
Participants can log on to the website to access weekly shopping lists. Each week, they must enter their weight on the website in order to get the menu for the next week.
Meanwhile, Rivera and his team will try to assess scientifically if by providing this plan – web-based and through the media – they are actually changing the behavior of the audience. Collaborating with the Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Rivera wants to assess data such as numbers of participants, age and health status of participants, and average weight loss, noting that Univision potentially could engage hundreds of thousands of participants.
“So this is literally a very powerful initiative even from a research standpoint, aside from the main idea, which is helping people,” he says.
For any audience members who have not yet entered the challenge but still would like to do so, it’s not too late: While organizers plan to begin analyzing the data and providing feedback after one month, new participants are welcome to join at any time, Rivera says.