By Adelina Carter, Kern County Call to Action
A set of startling statistics confronted Kern County in 2010. Chronic diseases, along with overweight and obesity, had reached epidemic proportions in our communities.
Kern County ranked an eye-popping 58th out of the state’s 58 counties for preventing heart disease as a cause of death, and 57th out of 58 counties when it came to diabetes as a cause of death. More than 60 percent of the population (teens and adults) showed a body mass index (BMI) in the overweight or obese category.
These findings were reported in the California Department of Public Health’s 2010 County Health Status Profiles and the 2008 California Health Interview Survey.
With such alarming statistics, those who work for the Kern County Public Health Services Department reached out to community members and organizations to help change this trend.
Individuals from government, healthcare, education, early childcare, communication and business sectors joined with community and faith-based organizations to take on this huge challenge.
Partners began brainstorming new ways to create healthy and sustainable changes in our county. They created the Kern County Call to Action: Chronic Disease and Obesity Action Plan.
In 2010, the health department won a Community Transformation Grant from the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They began building the Kern County Call to Action Coalition.
Now, in 2013, the Kern County Call to Action (CTA) is busy developing coalitions, preparing to move into implementation. We are seeking a base of partners committed to creating a culture of health in Kern County. We are also researching successful model programs elsewhere, and seeking to understand community members’ opinions about their own health.
CTA Working Groups
Seven working groups have been developed: Government, Healthcare, Worksite Wellness Education, Early Childhood Education and Community along with Communications and Outreach.
These CTA Working Groups will be conducting small pilot projects that show potential to be used as the basis to secure future funding.
Prescriptions for Health
Can you imagine going for a regular check-up with your doctor and coming out with a prescription to buy more fruits and vegetables? The CTA Health Working Group has begun precisely that strategy. Through Prescriptions for Health, doctors will prescribe that patients eat more fruits and vegetables and increase daily physical activity.
These prescriptions then become tickets for local nutrition and physical activity classes, or coupons to buy fruits and vegetables at local markets.
Local clinics will be linked to healthy resources in the community. One Arvin clinic will pilot this plan, to create a model to use throughout the county.
Other priorities for our working groups include establishing a Community Garden Association, implementing Gold Seal wellness standards for Early Childhood Education Centers and implementing school wellness policies.
Call to Action Survey
The purpose of the Call to Action Public Opinion Survey is to obtain viewpoints about public health issues in Kern County communities. The survey has been inserted into some of today’s issues of The Mountain Enterprise. Please fill it out and turn it in. It seeks to help us learn about Mountain Community attitudes and beliefs about (1) healthy eating, active living, your physical environment, tobacco-free living and availability of clinical and preventive services; plus (2) what kind of health-related changes are needed in our community. Survey results will be used by Call to Action Coalition staff to focus future CTA efforts.
Improvement in our county’s health can already be seen, even in this early stage. Today, the Call to Action coalition has over 250 partners working together to prevent chronic disease, reduce health disparities and to improve access to clinical and preventive services.
The benefit of non-traditional partnerships for health—such as the link between a doctor and a local market owner in Prescriptions for Health—are becoming clear.
Statistics in Kern County are improving. Kern County now ranks 57th out of 58 counties when it comes to death due to heart disease. The federal Center for Disease Control reports that obesity rates in low-income preschoolers have also declined.
These improvements may seem small, but with health issues as complex as these, change requires a cultural shift over time. With community-wide support, we can continue to change the statistics and continue to create a culture of health here.
You Are the Solution
Please fill out the survey tucked into this week’s newspaper. Drop it off at one of these locations: The Clubhouse in Pine Mountain, the Mountain Communities Family Resource Center, Frazier Park Branch Library, Coffee Cantina or The Mountain Enterprise. You can also take the survey online at: www.surveymonkey.com/s/kernpublicopinion2013. You can find more ways to get involved by contacting the Call to Action staff at (661) 868-1285.
Adelina Carter (left) of Kern County’s Call to Action team watches Green Dragon Farms’ Linda Robredo and Janice Keenberg show how to make heart-healthy iced desserts.
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This is part of the August 30, 2013 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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