NAME: Susan Burden
HOMETOWN: Redondo Beach
PROFESSION: Chief Executive Officer, Beach Cities Health District
“Hello, my name is Susan Burden, and my vision is for folks in our beach communities to ride the wave to healthier, longer lives.”
Susan Burden has always been passionate about promoting healthy living.
“What people don’t understand is 70% of all illnesses are preventable,” said Burden. “People are literally digging themselves into a hole.”
Seven years ago, she took over as CEO of Beach Cities Health District—a group dedicated to changing people’s habits to live longer, healthier lives in Redondo, Hermosa and Manhattan Beaches.
Under Burden’s guidance, the district has partnered with local government agencies to create programs that enforce health goals, such as the “Walking School Bus.” So far, three elementary schools participate.
“Most kids live less than a mile away from the school. Instead of standing in front of a bus-stop, parent volunteers now lead groups of children to campus,” Burden said. “Also, once the kids get to school, there’s a morning aerobics class on the playground for kids and adults.”
Burden has also helped implement adult walking groups—currently there are 145. And, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
More than a year ago, Burden came across a nationwide health competition sponsored by Healthways, a national company big on promoting health. Out of 55 cities, Beach Cities won.
The winning idea: to create an entire community on healthy living, deepening community, government, and private partnerships to ensure a comprehensive approach. Healthways awarded Beach Cities 3.5 million to initiate programs over a three year period.
Burden’s plans include creating more biking and walking friendly communities and working with restaurants to make menus healthier—currently 40 restaurants have made changes.
“I’m hopeful we’ll accomplish the goals, because when you get right down to it, people are hungry for better choices. At the end of the day, people do care about their health.”
Burden credits the success to support from elected leaders in each of the cities. She hopes state politicians will see this as a model and create overarching policies that make healthcare a top priority.
“We understand there may be obstacles to healthier living, but we’re trying to be forward thinking in solving them,” Burden said.