Baldwin Park, Calif.

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

Baldwin Park, a predominantly Latino suburb of Los Angeles in the San Gabriel Valley, is a lower-income community with a high proportion of foreign-born residents and native Spanish-speakers. Many struggle to meet their basic needs, especially because of Southern California’s high cost of living.

With the California Center for Public Health Advocacy (CCPHA) and its partners in the local health department and school district, Baldwin Park will use its funding through Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities to implement People on the Move. This effort, a multilingual, multicultural initiative, aims to change environments for school-aged children and their families in ways that promote healthy eating and increased physical activity. Its ultimate goal is reducing the prevalence of obesity and diabetes.

During the next four years, People on the Move will focus on:

  • Decreasing unhealthy food marketing and advertising, and increasing access to healthy foods in corner grocery stores located near schools; and
  • Improving the “walkability” of the downtown area and supporting new greenways and public spaces as the city center is renovated.

“We’re definitely excited in Baldwin Park,” project director Rosa Soto said, thinking of the projects under way and the possibilities ahead. But reaching this point took real effort. “When we first started, people were asking, ‘Why not just do nutrition education?’ It took us a long time to get everyone in our community to understand their role in creating a healthy environment for children.”

The collaboration between CCPHA and Baldwin Park leaders began in 1999 and expanded dramatically when the city of 80,000 received a Healthy Eating, Active Communities grant from The California Endowment in 2005. The coalition used that funding to press for healthier foods in after-school settings, safer parks and a citywide moratorium on drive-through service windows in new business developments.

The group has grown to encompass many interests, including members of the local business community. Youth have been part of its conversation almost from the start, and Soto refers enthusiastically to those young people as the “real leaders because of the clarity with which they talk.” They’re the ones who sometimes best explain why change is important, she said, “on a community, real-people level.”

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