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Kaiser Permanente tackles obesity in Lemon Grove with $1 million grant

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The Community Health Improvements Partners, a San Diego nonprofit, has received a $1 million grant from Kaiser Permanente to promote healthy eating and active living in Lemon Grove through an alliance of community partners focused on improving community health.

The investment is part of Kaiser Permanente's new three-year, more than $7 million HEAL (Healthy Eating Active Living) Zones initiative across Southern California.

The HEAL Zones are designed to help make healthy choices accessible to more people in underserved communities — and in turn to prevent diseases such as diabetes and hypertension that often result from obesity.

"This funding from Kaiser Permanente will allow us to make changes that reflect the specific needs of our city," said Ernie Anastos, Superintendent for the Lemon Grove School District and active member of the HEAL Zone coalition in Lemon Grove. "The partnership with Kaiser Permanente is invaluable in the campaign to fight obesity in Lemon Grove. We appreciate not only the funding from Kaiser Permanente, but also the expertise and technical support they are continuing to share as part of this initiative."

The Lemon Grove HEAL Zone project brings together a robust coalition of partners including residents, the City of Lemon Grove, Lemon Grove School District, Community Health Improvement Partners, San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative, healthcare providers and local businesses to decrease calorie consumption, increase healthy food and beverage choices and increase physical activity. Some of the proposed activities to achieve these goals include implementing a healthy vending machine policy throughout the city, implementing an employee wellness program for school district employees, incorporating healthy menu options in local restaurants, establishing a "Friends of the Park" organization, and providing recreational opportunities such as hiking and walking trails to the more than 26,000 residents in Lemon Grove.

In addition to Lemon Grove, Kaiser Permanente selected five Southern California communities to receive $1 million HEAL Zones grants: Anaheim in Orange County, Long Beach in Los Angeles County, Ontario in San Bernardino County, West Ventura in Ventura County, and East Riverside in Riverside County.

Kaiser Permanente will also dedicate additional funding for technical and evaluation support as well as other Southern California place-based community investments over the next three years.

Obesity is a national epidemic, and in California, the statistics are stark: Half of all California adults, one in every nine California children, and one in three teens is obese or overweight.

Place matters

A person's neighborhood greatly affects their likelihood of obesity because it determines how easy it is to buy affordable healthy food and have a safe place to be active. Low-income communities tend to have some of the highest obesity rates, which is why the HEAL Zones are focused there.

The vision of the HEAL Zones is that at the end of the three-year initiative, communities will be measurably transformed so that opportunities for engaging in healthy behaviors – walking and biking on safe routes, buying affordable fresh fruits and vegetables close to home, exercising in parks and participating in active after-school programs — are part of daily life.

The HEAL Zones are a continuation of Kaiser Permanente's Healthy Eating Active Living program that began in 2004 to address obesity and other health related conditions.

"Since the inception of our HEAL program we have seen increased physical activity, greater availability of healthy food in corner stores, improvement of our local parks and creation of safe walkways. We also learned that going forward, we could make a greater impact by concentrating our efforts in smaller, more targeted areas," said Benjamin Chu, MD, MPH, MACP, group president for Kaiser Permanente Southern California and Kaiser Permanente Hawaii. "For Kaiser Permanente, the HEAL Zones are much more than just funding. They are an extension of the work in our medical centers, and our commitment to helping create healthy individuals and healthy communities."

Each HEAL Zone will focus on three specific goals over the next three years:

* Decrease calorie consumption, especially sugar-sweetened beverages.

* Increase consumption of healthy food and beverages such as fresh fruits and vegetables and drinking water.

* Increase physical activity.

"As we address obesity, especially childhood obesity, it's imperative to make changes where it is happening— where people live, work and play — to make it easier for people to eat more healthfully and move more as part of daily life," said Patricia Cantrell, MD, Kaiser Permanente San Diego Pediatrician. "Otherwise, we will continue to see a rise in obesity related diseases like Type 2 diabetes."

About Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America's leading health care providers and non-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, our mission is to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve 8.9 million members in nine states and the District of Columbia. Kaiser Permanente San Diego began serving San Diego in 1967, and currently provides care for more than 500,000 members throughout the county. Over 8,200 staff and more than 1,100 physicians care for our members at 24 medical facilities; Kaiser Permanente's San Diego Medical Center, which has 392 licensed beds and a 78 bed Emergency Department; and Palomar Medical Center, our plan hospital in North County. To learn more, visit the web site at kp.org/sandiego.

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