While public health officials have prodded residents to eat better and get more exercise for years, California residents are growing increasingly overweight or obese.
St. Mary’s Medical Center, Community Health Action Network, Apple Valley Unified School District, and the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health’s Nutrition Program developed a Communities of Excellence in Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity Prevention (CX3) High Desert Action Team. The CX3project — developed and funded by the California Department of Public Health — has provided this team with resources and tools to take a ground-level look at low-income neighborhoods in neighborhoods in the High Desert Area (Adelanto, Apple Valley, Hesperia, and Victorville) of San Bernardino County to understand the dynamics shaping health behaviors.
By mapping food environments in the neighborhood, including food availability, fast-food outlets, convenience-store offerings and food-marketing practices, the health department gathered the first concrete understanding of the issues shaping local nutrition and health behaviors.
“The findings are both instructional and concerning,” said Kevin Mahany, Director of Advocacy and Healthy Communities at St. Joseph Health, St. Mary. “We discovered neighborhood food environments where the abundance of low-nutrition, high-fat and sugar-laden foods far outweighs the availability of healthy-food options. The information collected should serve as a guide in making community-wide changes to significantly improve the health of San Bernardino County.”
The CX3 High Desert Action Team collected and analyzed local data to gain a realistic picture of the overall quality of the nutrition environment in particular neighborhoods. An evaluation was conducted in four low-income neighborhoods in the High Desert area, including: the north Adelanto community in Adelanto, the Yucca Loma neighborhood in the Town of Apple Valley, the Gateway Area neighborhood in Hesperia, and the old-town neighborhood in the City of Victorville.
The High Desert’s low income neighborhoods, based on the CX3 analysis, are out of balance from a nutrition and health perspective. These neighborhoods are characterized by limited access to affordable, healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. They are dominated by an abundance of stores where cheaper, packaged and less healthy foods dominate — namely convenience stores, small corner markets and fast food outlets.
“Our analysis points to clear opportunities for action to make our neighborhoods ‘communities of excellence,’ ” Mahany said. “Gaining a realistic picture of the health of the neighborhood offers residents, merchants, community leaders, and local neighborhood and health groups a focal point as they work to build a healthier community.”
The public is invited to attend the various public events taking place throughout the month of August. In Hesperia, an event is planned for 8:30 a.m. to noon Aug. 22 at New Life Chapel Church in the Oasis Building, 10184 Seventh Ave.
For more information, call the Community Health Action Network at 760-241-9900. For more on other community events, visit www.stmaryapplevalley.com.