Supervisor Wilma Chan offers this guest opinion in light of news about worrisome rates of youth obesity in many Alameda County communities.
A recent study released by the California Center for Public Health Advocacy (CCPHA) shows that with 42.7 percent of 5th, 7th, and 9th graders overweight or obese.
Being overweight and obese is associated with serious health conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and diabetes. In addition, overweight children and adolescents are more likely to become overweight adults.
Obesity is a complex issue, which will require comprehensive solutions that bring together families, schools, city and county governments, and other stakeholders to end this epidemic. Many good strategies are currently happening in San Leandro, which will help address the obesity crisis.
- Access: There is a thriving farmers’ market that delivers fresh fruits and vegetables from the farm to community.
- Education: In school, children are receiving nutrition and garden education, which builds on evidence that children will eat more healthy foods when they had a part in growing them or when they know where they came from and how they grow.
- Commuting: The Safe Routes to Schools program, which promotes walking and biking to school by using education and incentives, will be expanding to all public schools.
- Activity: To promote active living, voters recently passed Measure M to finance renovation of Burrell Field and physical education sites at all San Leandro Unified District schools.
San Leandro is not alone in facing -- and dealing with -- this challenge.
One in three or 34.5 percent of children and adolescents living in Alameda County are obese. Alameda County has led several efforts to directly prevent and reduce obesity, which primarily focus on education and outreach to youth, families, and seniors to support healthy eating and physical activity. Examples of this effort include:
- The Soda Free Summer Campaign, which educates and empowers young people, families, and seniors to reduce or eliminate sweetened sugar beverages
- Partnerships with small neighborhood stores to increase access to healthy fresh foods, particularly fresh fruits and vegetables. The program is currently being piloted and will be evaluated as a county-wide model.
This is a great start, yet we need to do more. Parents, schools, and local government can join forces to address this growing crisis and strengthen and expand programs that address obesity.
Fighting obesity isn’t just about programs; it’s about helping our community lead a healthy lifestyle, by ensuring access to medical and dental coverage. In Alameda County, we:
- Passed Measure A: This was a county sales tax extension to provide medical and preventative care for those who are struggling in our community.
- Increased Enrollment: We chose to become the first county in America to take on U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebellius’s challenge to enroll all eligible children in publicly-funded health programs, like Medi-Cal and Healthy Families.
- On-line Access: Alameda County's HealthPAC is helping the public and individuals be aware of the multitude of healthcare resource available to them through innovative websites like ACHealthcare.org, a streamlined site that helps keep Alameda County’s residents healthy by allowing them to access healthcare services the moment they need them.
On the national level, First Lady Michelle Obama has launched the Let’s Move campaign. This is certainly a community-wide effort we should explore implementing in Alameda County.
Efforts to keep our community healthy always start in the home, but they extend across every street, store, school, and business if we choose to collaborate.
When we work together and form a coordinated strategy that builds upon successful local and national program models, we can address the unique needs and challenges of our community to keep our kids healthy and fit.