As with many public health efforts across the country, Santa Cruz County emphasizes getting the community’s youth involved. Jóvenes SANOS is part of the “Go for Health!” collaborative to address childhood obesity. The Watsonville-based youth advocacy project works to improve access to healthy food choices and physical activity through the implementation of long-term environmental policy and system change.
They are very savvy at assessing their community and then figuring out how the community needs to change so that these kids have more opportunities, and their little brothers and sisters, and people who come after them will also have opportunities,” said Goeke.
For example, they noticed that there were almost no healthy food options around the area high school, so they went to the city council and argued for—and gained—new health policies that encouraged new healthy restaurants and rewarded existing restaurants for adding health food choices to their menus. More recently, they’ve been working to bring healthy vending machine options to the county’s metro stations.
What’s more, these are lessons that stay with them.
“My proudest achievement has been bringing back what I’ve learned to my family,” said Gabriela Sanchez-Ramirez, a member of Jóvenes SANOS. “My aunt, she has diabetes, and I’ve influenced her to go to nutrition classes and she has stabilized her diabetes. My dad suffers from high blood pressure and he’s learned how to change his diet and how to control his anxiety of not being able to know how to control his high blood pressure.”