Seattle/King County, Wash.

Community is among 50 sites making changes in national initiative to prevent obesity.

    • December 2, 2008

Seattle and the rest of King County are home to an increasing number of immigrants from a wide range of countries. This is especially true in the low-income neighborhoods at the center of the Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities project here.

The King County Housing Authority (KCHA), in partnership with the Seattle Housing Authority and Public Health-Seattle & King County, will focus on improving policies and systems that support healthy eating and active living for children in four public housing sites. Incredibly diverse populations live at these sites. At one, for example, more than half of the 1,100 residents are 18 years old or younger. Nearly half of the families do not speak English at home, with Vietnamese (16 percent), Somali (15 percent) and Cambodian (6 percent) the most prevalent languages.

KCHA’s goal is to link public housing residents, housing authorities and community organizations and build new social and physical environments that will promote healthy lifestyles and combat childhood obesity. Its plans include:

  • Increasing physical activity access, opportunities and levels;
  • Increasing consumption of healthy foods and avoidance of unhealthy foods;
  • Creating stronger connections between people and local food sources; and
  • Creating changes in the housing authorities' institutional policies, practices and systems to improve residents’ health and reduce obesity and chronic diseases.

In a county of more than 1.8 million people, one challenge for the partnership is the sites' geographic and ethnic differences. Two are in Seattle itself, one is a suburban community in South King County, and the fourth is an unincorporated area on the county’s western side.

“It’s a big challenge, and that’s the exciting part,” project director Linda Weedman said. “How do we do this is a way that is site specific and culturally sensitive? How can we make it so everyone buys in?”

But there’s little difference, little division, in people’s concern about childhood obesity, she noted. “The one thing we do have is a common commitment to the kids. It doesn’t matter if we have a suburban community or the urban core. Everyone wants this to work for the kids.”

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