The University of California, Davis, has begun a new worksite-based health program designed to lower the risk of obesity and diabetes among Latino farmworkers.

At the heart of the new five-year study is Zumba, a dance-exercise program typically with a Latin beat.

Also involved in the study is Oxnard, Calif.-based berry grower Reiter Affiliated Cos. and the Health Initiative of the Americas at UC Berkeley.

The project is being funded by a $3 billion grant from the National institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases, according to a news release.

Obesity and diabetes have grown rapidly in the United States during the past decade, with an even more rapid increase among Latinos.

In that population, 78% are either overweight or obese, markedly higher than the general population, according to the release.

The prevalence of diabetes among Latinos in the United States is almost twice that of non-Latino whites.

UC program promotes Zumba fitness to farmworkersTo address these health issues, the program is designed to develop and evaluate obesity- and diabetes-prevention programs that can be provided to workers in the field.

The study will include food and nutrition educational programs at on-farm worksites as well as excercise activities, such as Zumba.

The programs will be led by "promotoras"—community health workers.

The study focuses on ranches in Salinas and Watsonville, but the ultimate goal is to expand the program to farms elsewhere in California and the nation.

"We hope that the economic benefits—which we anticipate will be demonstrated and quantified through this study—will help convince other companies in the agricultural industry to adopt similar programs," Marc Schenker, project leader and director of the UC Migration and Health Research Center, said in the release.