Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Increasing Opportunities for Exercise in Historic South Los Angeles

On February 13th, 2017, Central Avenue Jazz Park in Historic South Central Los Angeles was transformed into an outdoor fitness space with community members and instructors moving through workouts designed to increase cardiovascular capacity, boost energy levels and increase the feeling of wellbeing. For community member Claudia Durango, it was a welcomed event, “This is going to be really good for the community; we just need to continue having people show up.” The new program is part of the rollout of National Health Foundation’s (NHF) BUILD Health LA Initiative Community Action Plan for Historic South Central.
In 2016, NHF’s BUILD Health LA Community Health Liaisons, a group of local high school students and their mentors, surveyed the community to understand residents’ barriers to health. The results of the survey were captured in the Community Action Plan that aims to improve the health of the community through methods that have been identified by the community’s residents and that capitalize on partnerships and the assets available.
Historic South Central Los Angeles is 6 square miles, and is home to roughly 103,000 people. In this community, there are no gyms and there is only 0.4 acres of park space for every 100,000 people. Along with having limited access to open space, this community is considered both a food desert (with few healthy food retail choices) and a food swamp (categorized by a prevalence of unhealthy food outlets). Obesity and diabetes are common in this community, and while physicians recommend healthy eating and exercise, these lifestyle changes are challenging to practice with what is available in the community.
One of the needs the Community Action Plan addresses is for programs to keep residents physically active. Many stated that the classes that were available were too expensive and that the free programs had extensive waitlists of residents eager to join. We learned that these residents want to exercise and they will – if the opportunity is there.
As a result, we partnered with 3WINS Fitness, an innovative program spearheaded by Dr. Loy and Kinesiology students from California State University, Northridge. 3WINS Fitness “adopts” parks in Los Angeles, and sends Kinesiology students to teach community members how to exercise while nurturing a community mentality that leads to friendships, accountability and results!
In addition to 3WINS Fitness, NHF also partnered with California Hospital Medical Center, LA County Department of Public Health, LA City Parks and Recreation, Newton Community Police Station, All People’s Community Center, and A Place Called Home, to launch the fitness program. Classes take place Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at Central Avenue Jazz Park and All People’s Community Center.
Community members are thrilled with this new opportunity and have already built great rapport with the instructors from 3WINS. For NHF, the program represents a new way of delivering health to the community. “By creating an opportunity for the community to express their needs and actively engage in finding solutions to the health barriers they were experiencing, they are bringing about healthy changes from within,” shared NHF CEO Kelly Bruno.
Consistency is always the key with taking on a new behavior, but we are sure that with this new partnership and with the different components of the BUILD Health LA Initiative and Community Action Plan, the residents in Historic South Central Los Angeles will have new opportunities to live a healthier lifestyle.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

High School Health Activist Has Sights Set on Health Career

Aracely Ortiz, 2nd from left, presenting Health Academy's Cafeteria Makeover Project during the 
Youth Summit hosted by LACDPH, April 2015
Aracely Ortiz first heard about the Health Academy during a recruitment presentation in class when she was in 9th grade. It was also Health Academy’s first year at Thomas Jefferson Senior High. “I wasn’t really involved in anything else at that time,” she explains, “but Health Academy just sounded different from all the other groups I’d heard about, so I decided to go for it.”
She went on to submit an application and sat through an interview, and in the spring semester of 2014, Aracely became a member, or “youth leader,” of the brand-new Health Academy program. After attending a few meetings and experiencing first-hand what the program was about, she was hooked. “At first I was debating whether to continue or not, but everyone in the program was so nice and supportive. It felt like a good place to be.”

Through Health Academy, Aracely learned some unexpected things about her community. She learned how her neighborhood is often considered a food desert or food swamp because of the prevalence of fast food restaurants and liquor stores compared to full-service grocery stores that sell fresh fruits and vegetables. While discussing food swamps, she said, “it was definitely eye-opening. I thought that we already had a lot of things in our community, but now I’ve realized that we don’t have as much as we should.”

Since realizing this, Aracely has actively worked to improve access to healthy food for her school and her community. She often shares information she learns through Health Academy with her family and friends. “I always show my parents the healthy food recipes I get from Health Academy, and we’ve started making them at home… I’ve also taught my parents how to read nutrition labels, and it’s something we look at now when we shop for food”.

Aracely has also taken on leadership roles in several Health Academy initiatives, such as implementing Smarter Lunchroom strategies in the school cafeteria and the Mini Farm Stand project. Throughout her participation, Aracely has been an important voice for her fellow students and community members. One moment she feels particularly proud of was attending a youth summit hosted by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health during her sophomore year, where she presented her team’s Cafeteria Makeover project to other high school students from across the County. “We made changes in the cafeteria that year that decreased the wait times for getting lunch and also got students more excited about the cafeteria food. More students started participating in the school lunch program, and I like to think our project helped… I felt really proud of how we presented our project and I think we were able to give other schools some good ideas.”

Her experience with Health Academy encouraged Aracely to be even more involved in school. Aside from Health Academy, she is now also an active member of her school’s Gay-Straight Alliance chapter, Student Leadership and ROTC. Now a senior, Aracely is in her fourth and final year in Health Academy, where her role has expanded to include Youth Social Media Manager. In this position, she will work with other Health Academy students to create and post content for the NHF Health Academy Instagram page. Aracely is also getting ready for college next year and has already received acceptance letters from California State University, Dominguez Hills and Loyola Marymount University. She aspires to become a nurse someday, and credits her involvement in Health Academy for inspiring her interest in the health field. 

Aracely is one of over a hundred students that has participated in Health Academy which is going into its fourth year through funding from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Recently, National Health Foundation received another Department of Public Health grant, the Champions for Change – Healthy Communities Initiative, to expand Health Academy to another Los Angeles high school; allowing NHF’s Health Academy and its proven benefits to reach many more students like Aracely, their families and the community.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Two Men, Two Paths

Arnie and Mat arrived at National Health Foundation’s (NHF) Pathway Recuperative Care from partner hospitals in early December 2016. Both were in need of additional medical supervision and both were homeless. The similarities in their cases ended there. The task of delivering essential care and helping the two men find stable housing required an individualized plan that took into account their stories, their needs and their goals.

Arnie's multiple chronic medical conditions require monitoring and medication, both of which are challenging to maintain on a modest monthly social security check. He found himself unable to pay for rent and his condition deteriorated until he needed to be hospitalized. Upon discharge from the hospital he was homeless and in need of follow-up care. At Pathway Recuperative Care, Arnie worked closely with staff members on his care plan. This plan looks at the patient’s needs both medically and with respect to housing. Staff then began connecting Arnie to services available to him via the Department of Mental Health as well as medical services to ensure continuous improvement on both fronts. With Arnie’s motivation and Pathway staff persistence, he was able to secure stable housing that will ensure a sustained return to health.

For Mat, the struggle was no less intense. He came to Pathway Recuperative Care from a partner hospital with no money, no identification and no home. Struggling to recover from substance abuse, the 20-year-old had spent years in the foster care system and found emancipation to be more difficult than he had the skills to cope with. Upon arriving at Pathway Recuperative Care, the staff worked with Mat to reapply for General Relief, obtain a replacement Electronic Benefit Transfer card and kept him proactive in attending the necessary medical and social services appointments that would ensure his return to health. The last piece of Mat’s health plan was to secure stable housing.  Mat’s stable housing is such that he will receive the support he needs to maintain his health while acquiring the skills he needs to navigate adulthood.

For Pathway Recuperative Care staff, each patient has a vastly different set of circumstances that has led to the decline in their health and the loss of their home. “Each person who comes to Pathway is seen as an individual with distinct health needs. We take the time to understand their history and work with them to devise a plan that matches their needs and capacity for managing their progress to sustained health," explained Kelly Bruno, MSW, President/CEO National Health Foundation. For Arnie and Mat, the prospect of an end to homelessness was welcomed with large grins and a sense of accomplishment. “We find it impossible to speak about health without addressing the most fundamental social determinant of health: housing. Without a home, there can be no health,” asserts Bruno. With secure and supportive homes both Arnie and Mat can now turn their attention and energy towards their healing and health.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

National Health Foundation Awarded Nearly $1 Million to Address High Obesity Rates in Historic South Central Los Angeles

National Health Foundation (NHF) was awarded $880,000 from the Los Angeles CountyDepartment of Public Health with funding from the California Department of Public Health and the United States Department of Agriculture. The grant will support the Champions for Change - Healthy Communities Initiative, which aims to reduce the prevalence of obesity among low-income Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education eligible populations by providing nutrition education, physical activity promotion, and working to create healthier environments for low-income individuals and families where they live, learn, work, play, pray, and shop.

Key efforts under the initiative include teaching fundamental skills such as cooking, reading food labels, shopping on a budget, growing fruits and vegetables, and introducing low-cost and fun ways to be physically active. In addition, champions in communities throughout the County will be identified to help improve access to healthier foods and increase opportunities to be physical active in a variety of settings, including early childcare centers, schools, faith-based organizations, corner stores, parks, worksites, and cities.   

“National Health Foundation is pleased to be a part of this County-wide initiative, as we are committed to improving underserved communities by taking actions on the social determinants of health,” explained Kelly Bruno, MSW, President/CEO, National Health Foundation. “We are working toward making notable changes in the community by working with students in schools, local corner stores and community partners to make healthier foods more affordable and available as well as identify ways to integrate physical activity into the day to improve the overall health for families in South Central LA.” 

According to the LA County: A Cities andCommunities Health Report, obesity-related chronic illnesses continue to rank among the top ten leading causes of premature death, including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. While the obesity epidemic continues to impact virtually all population groups, roughly 29% of children and 37% of adults in South Central LA are obese, which is significantly higher than the rest of Los Angeles County. LA County black and Latino resident’s fair worse when it comes to obesity and obesity-related illnesses compared to whites and Asians. Thirty-two percent of Latinos and thirty one percent of blacks are obese in LA County, compared to 18% of whites and 8% of Asians. When it comes to South Central Los Angeles black and Latino residents, who make up 10% and 87% of the population respectively, the situation is no different. 

Reducing obesity is a priority of Public Health and a key objective of the Champions for Change - Healthy Communities Initiative,” said Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, Interim Health Officer of Los Angeles County. “By investing in our communities and the people that we serve, we are hopeful that we can make impactful, long-lasting changes for better health outcomes.”

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Winter Clothing Drive for Recuperative Care

National Health Foundation is hosting a Winter Clothing Drive for Recuperative Care Program participants. These men and women are continuing to heal after a hospital stay and are transitioning to stable housing after having been homeless. Many come to our program without the basic necessities such as a change of clothes and cold weather apparel. Kindly consider sharing what you can! We will collect donations through January 30th.

ITEMS NEEDED FOR DONATIONS (both men and women)

Underwear (bras, panties, men’s boxer shorts-30-32, 34-36, 38-40, 40-42, 44-46)

T-shirts: Medium, Large, X-Large and XXL, XXXL

Sweat Pants: Medium, Large, X-Large and XXL, XXXL

Sweat Shirts: Medium, Large, X-Large and XXL, XXXL

White Tube Socks: Women Sizes 6-10 and Men Sizes 9-12

New or Gently Worn Coats- All Sizes

We are accepting donations at our recuperative care facility at:
5136 W Washington blvd. 90016, on Monday through Friday, 9-4

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Partnering for a Healthier South LA

National Health Foundation (NHF) and partners know firsthand that to improve the health of individuals and underserved communities the work cannot be done alone. Collaboration is necessary, and forming multi-sectoral partnerships to align resources, leverage partnerships, and synergize upstream prevention efforts -  is key to building a healthier community.

Under the BUILD Health LA initiative, NHF and partners have come together to address the health disparities and inequities faced by the South Central LA community. Together, BUILD partners envision Historic South Los Angeles as a community that defies the odds and becomes an oasis of fresh, healthy foods and inviting urban space. The BUILD initiative attempts to build on past efforts to create an inviting community where youth, families and adults can access healthy food, be physically active outside, and are supported in maintaining a healthy lifestyle that results in decreasing the prevalence of obesity and subsequently diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, this partnership believes in the ambition and potential of the youth in this community. Central to this work, is the commitment and emphasis on youth involvement, empowering youth to take action towards improving social, environmental, and economic conditions in their neighborhood to impact community health.

At present, a new forged partnership with COmmunity Markets Purchasing Real and Affordable Foods (COMPRA Foods) has caused great excitement to the BUILD efforts. COMPRA Foods is a purchasing cooperative and produce distribution program designed to meet the needs of small grocers in low-income neighborhoods. COMPRA Foods was developed, and is lead, by Leadership for Urban Renewal Network (LURN), the Los Angeles Food Policy Council (LAFPC), and the Asian Pacific Islander Obesity Prevention Alliance (APIOPA). The COMPRA Foods team will provide leadership to the BUILD initiative in engaging small markets to offer fresh, healthy food options.

Other BUILD Health LA partners include: Santee Education Complex and Thomas Jefferson High Schools who are providing access to youth for participation; 3WINS program at California StateUniversity, Northridge, who are providing kinesiology student volunteers to facilitate fitness programming; All People’s Community Center, A Place CalledHome and L.A.U.R.A., who will each host new fitness programming and will conduct outreach to the community to expose neighbors to the positive changes being implemented; and South Central Family Health Center and St. John’s Well Childand Family Center, who will conduct outreach, disseminate marketing materials, and food vouchers to drive community members to embrace the implemented upstream healthy changes in the community.

Through BUILD, the project team is moving South LA toward supporting healthier lifestyles. In
addition, by training and supporting youth Community Health Liaisons to drive much of this change, the project creates a cadre of local leaders who will understand potential for upstream improvements and have the skills to influence them.

Together, NHF and partners are TAKING ACTION to decrease the prevalence of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease in Historic South Central LA by creating new solutions to community health!

A COMPRA Foods van filled with healthy produce
Recently, NHF met up with Rudy Espinoza, LURN Founder and Executive Director, and his team at LURN Headquarters. Here’s what they had to say about the new partnership and how LURN’s work through COMPRA Foods, connects with the BUILD Health LA initiative.

What is it about the BUILD community action plan that is in line with LURN’s mission?
Alike the BUILD Health LA initiative, LURN is dedicated to binging people together to design, build, and promote sustainable communities that allow everyone to live to their greatest potential. For example, through the COMPRA Foods program, LURN is invested in finding creative opportunities to bring more fresh produce and healthier food options into underserved communities like South LA to build a healthier community, and a healthier Los Angeles overall.

What are the goals for COMPRA?
With little to no access to major grocery stores in neighborhoods like Historic South Central Los Angeles, COMPRA Foods aims to amplify the capacity of small convenience stores to carry affordable and healthy produce. Currently, COMPRA is a grant funded initiative, supported by funders such as USDA, the Department of Public Health, the Ahmanson Foundation, and the Kresge Foundation. “We have a vision that COMPRA can become the next stand-alone social enterprise, much like Amazon fresh, for local grocers and small convenience stores.” This would mean more access to fresh, quality, fruits and vegetables at a low-price for store owners, and residents alike, who frequent and shop at these local stores.
What has the community response to COMPRA been?”
Once in the COMPRA Foods program, small convenience store owners often see the value and cost savings of entering the cooperative. This is due by enlarge to the fact that small food retailers source their food products from "big-box" grocers, paying full price for these products and then marking them up for sale in their own establishments. This often occurs because entrepreneurs lack relationships with distributors who can deliver produce to their businesses at wholesale prices. Small and mid-size farmers who may be interested in selling their produce directly to these establishments also lack the relationships and efficient distribution systems that can connect them to the hundreds of stores in low-income, "food deserts”. This service gap between growers, distribution companies, and small food retailers impacts low-income consumers tremendously. Because there are few major grocery stores in some low-income communities, families are required to buy food at elevated costs found at small grocers who themselves lack low-cost alternatives to sourcing the produce they offer. In contrast, by entering the COMPRA Foods program, small market owners find support and are connected with small to large wholesale food distributors that provide them with the accessibility and affordability to sell fresh, healthy produce in their stores at a low-price to residents.

What does BUILD bring to LURN?
Through the BUILD Heath LA initiative, one part-time staff member will be hired to manage and expand the COMPRA Foods program to include 16 small markets within Historic South Central LA. Specifically, as a main focus in the first year, youth Community Health Liaisons and the project partners will conduct assessments of 22 local markets (out of the community’s 224 markets) to determine their viability and interest in participating in a food purchasing collaborative with expectations that a minimum of 16 will enter into the collaborative by the end of the first year. After three months of training, the anticipated goal is that each participating store will increase their healthy food options as measured by a cooperative order tracking system.
This supports LURN’s three-year program outcomes for COMPRA, which include: (1) engaging 60 small grocers and convenience stores in the Los Angeles Promise Zone area; (2) equipping 30 small stores to purchase produce and healthy snacks; (3) broker partnerships with 3 local farmers, produce wholesalers, and healthy snack purveyors; and (4) deliver food weekly to more than 30 small grocers and provide marketing and product placement assistance. This with an overall arching goal of reaching 30,000 residents and encouraging them to purchase health

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Healing Journey

When Frank was discharged from a Southern California hospital, he was in need of intensive follow up care; he was also homeless.

For hundreds of Angelenos who are without a home, a hospitalization can cause a momentary interruption of homelessness, but the reality of receiving follow-up care and healing on the street is such that many homeless patients find their way back into the hospital.

National Health Foundation’s (NHF) Pathway Recuperative Care offers patients like Frank a safe and supported environment where they can continue their healing journey and, thanks to our continuum Bridge Housing program, find a permanent and stable home to return to upon discharge.

Patients spend an average of 7-10 days in recuperative care and this respite often triggers a desire in our guests to find a stable home; however, the process is often challenging and takes a team of individuals to connect the guest with the best possible permanent housing solution. Since our program began in 2010, we have helped more than 3,000 formerly homeless individuals heal and nearly half find their way home.

On #GivingTuesday, we are inviting the community to donate generously to NHF’s Pathways and Bridge Housing programs. Your donations will provide taxi vouchers for patients to be transported from the hospital to our facilities, personal hygiene supplies, clothing and basic furnishings to help a formerly homeless individual make a house into a home.

For more information about Pathway recuperative care, click here.
For more information on Bridge Housing, please click here.