by Lisa Santora, MD, MPH on health
The childhood obesity epidemic reached our community in the early 2000s. In 2005, California Physical Fitness Testing results showed that more than 25 percent of Redondo Beach elementary school children were overweight. That year, the Beach Cities Health District created the LiveWell Kids obesity prevention program to halt the epidemic. Our most recent annual body mass index (BMI) screening shows a 37 percent reduction in the prevalence of obesity among Redondo Beach 5th graders, from a high of 18.2 percent in 2004 to 11.5 percent in 2012.
Today, BCHD’s LiveWell Kids program is active in all eight Redondo Beach elementary schools through a partnership with the Redondo Beach Unified School District. The program provides nutrition education, daily physical activity, and funding for fresh fruits and vegetables in school meals and school-based gardens.
During the annual LiveWell Kids BMI screenings, we were alarmed to find that 28.9 percent of boys and 25.3 percent of girls entered kindergarten overweight during the 2011- 2012 school year. This means they’ve already formed attitudes and habits that can impact their health for the rest of their lives.
As a result, in February 2012 we launched LiveWell Tots program, an evidence-based, obesity prevention program for pre-school-aged children. LiveWell Tots helps pre-school teachers deliver nutrition education to our youngest learners in an experiential format that integrates social and emotional learning. It includes mindfulness and the use of the senses.
This month, preschoolers at South Bay Adult School (SBAS) and Redondo Beach Childhood Development Centers (RBCDC) are learning about “mindful tasting.” Savoring our food can help all of us achieve a healthy weight, improved well-being, and a greater appreciation for the life cycle of our food system.
Obesity among Beach Cities adults is also an important health concern. Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the Beach Cities. Smoking, poor diet, and physical inactivity are the leading preventable causes of heart disease. For the past two and a half years, BCHD has partnered with Healthways to implement the Blue Zones Project | Beach Cities. The Blue Zones Project is an innovative, evidence-based community well-being improvement initiative. Many of your family, friends, and neighbors are working alongside us to make the Beach Cities a community where healthy choices are the easy choices.
Children at many of our local schools are walking or biking to school with our “Walking School Bus” Blue Zones program. School leadership is creating healthier school environments through programs such Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program and MindUP. In addition, local elected officials and city staffs are using healthy planning policies to transform our built environment. This month, Hermosa Beach became the first community in the country to achieve Blue Zones Community Policy designation.
Since 2010, residents of the Beach Cities have seen their well-being climb three points in the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. Like our early success with childhood obesity, we have also seen a 14 percent reduction in adult obesity since 2010. Finally, smoking rates among Beach Cities residents have dropped by more than 30 percent. Just seven percent of Beach Cities residents indicated they now smoke, compared to 10.6 percent in 2010 (and compared to 16 percent statewide and 21 percent nationally).
BCHD is committed to achieving the vision of a “healthy beach community.” We will only achieve this vision by working together with you, your friends and family, and your neighbors.
Join us by registering on BlueZonesProject.com and pledging to complete just one action item to improve your health and well-being. Or embrace your inner Blue Zone and join us tonight, Thursday, Feb. 21 at 5 p.m. at Uncorked in Hermosa Beach, or run or walk with us this Saturday, February 23 at 8 a.m. in the American Martyr’s Annual 5K Run/Walk.
Lisa Santora, MD, MPH on health, is the chief medical officer for the Beach Cities Health District. BCHD.org. ER