Photo: Nadia Shira Cohen/IFRC

Something’s Cooking in Navojoa

One cup social media. Two spoonfuls of enthusiasm. A dash of regular exercise and a basket of garden-grown vegetables. These are just some of the ingredients that go into the ‘Healthy Lifestyles’ initiative — a recipe catching on in communities in Mexico and beyond.

Donning a white apron, marked with the ‘Vida Saludable’ (Healthy Lifestyles) logo and armed with a wooden spoon and chopping knife, Francisco Javier Barreras, the Mexican Red Cross emergency management coordinator for the city of Navojoa, cooks up a savoury, low-cost and easy-to-cook dish of chicken, vegetables and rice. All the while, a digital camera records the cook in action — peeling the carrots, chopping the zucchini (courgettes) and narrating each step. A healthy food connoisseur becoming known for his self-made, healthy cooking show, Barreras shares his recipes on social media (YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, to name a few). Many of the ingredients come from his own garden, which boasts a variety of fruits and vegetables, from mangos to pumpkin. “We need to offer ingredients that people know and like, or else they just won’t eat it,” he says.

The home-cooked food show is just one of Barreras’s contributions to an IFRC-initiated internet website platform called Healthy Lifestyles, which helps create awareness about non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cancer by promoting good eating habits, exercise and reduced alcohol consumption and smoking. The approach is similar to an e-learning course and it includes information ranging from how to detect the symptoms of diabetes to healthy eating tips and suggestions for community bike rides, and exercise sessions in local schools and parks. The programme has enjoyed early success in Mexico, a country with the highest obesity rate in the world, according to the World Health Organization. Problems related to obesity account for 10 per cent of the country’s health budget and diabetes type 2 is the leading cause of death, followed by heart disease. In all, non-communicable diseases cause 77 per cent of the nation’s deaths. “We all have family members who either have these diseases or have died from them,” says Isela Velázquez, Red Cross youth coordinator for the Mexican city of Guanajuato. For Velázquez, working with young children in schools is the key. They are just now forming their habits and they can influence their parents, she says. Similarly, in Mexico City, volunteers bring games to children in marginalized communities, to help create healthy habits and to provide safe, fun social activities that could also serve as alternatives to drugs or violence.

Check out the Healthy Lifestyles online community at


What happens when machines can decide who to kill?

It’s the stuff of science fiction: machines that make decisions about who and when to kill. Referred to as “autonomous weapons”, they’re already in use to some degree. But as more sophisticated systems are being developed we wanted to an expert in the field about whether such systems comply with international humanitarian law and what it means for humanity to give machines the power over human life and death.

‘Wildfire diaries’ and radical change in communications

In this episode, we talk with humanitarian communicator Kathy Mueller who produced our first magazine podcast series, The Wildfire Diaries, about massive wildfires in Northern Canada in 2017. We talk about that series, her many international missions, and the big changes in humanitarian communications since she began with the Canadian Red Cross almost 20 years ago.

The power of storytelling

In this episode, we talk about the power of storytelling to inform and inspire. “Storytelling is a fundamental aspect of human communication,” says our guest Prodip, a volunteer and multi-media storyteller for the Bangladesh Red Crescent. “It inspires us to be a hero of our own community.” We also speak with one such community hero, Dalal al-Taji, a longtime volunteer and advocate for inclusion of people with disabilities in emergencies response. “In disasters. persons with disabilities sometimes get forgotten.”

This post is also available in:

Discover more stories

Get stories worth sharing delivered to your inbox

Want to stay up to date?

This might interest you...

Between hope and desperation

Families of people who have gone missing bear a singular psychological and emotional burden.

Check it out