Local communities inspire & make change through healthy living

150 150 Cheryl Getuiza

For some, it’s an inner struggle during mealtimes—should I have the shake and fries or a green salad?

It’s a decision the Beach Cities Health District hopes to make easier.

The organization has a renewed mission: improve the health of the entire region—Manhattan, Hermosa and Redondo Beaches-over a three year period by transforming schools, workplaces and homes.

“People do care about their health. They’re hungry for this,” said Susan Burden, Executive Director of the Beach Cities Health District.

About a year ago, Burden approached her medical director with a plan to enter a contest held by Healthways, a national company big on employee health, to become a model “Vitality City” by initiating new programs to reduce obesity and hypertension.

Fifty-five cities throughout the U.S. entered, but the Beach Cities Health District stood out and won.  How? The organization had support from the mayors of all three cities, all three school districts, and all 35 elected leaders to make their communities healthier.

It’s an aggressive plan over three years, but Burden says they will succeed.

“We’ve been working with these communities for decades now through the health district. They are ready for this. In fact, they want this.”

 Healthways awarded the district nearly $4 million, and the district is kicking in its own money, nearly $2 million, to put forth three-to-five new initiatives a year over the next three years.

As part of the award, a plan has been developed that will change the infrastructure of the cities to make them more bike and walkway friendly. It recently got approval from the city commissions, and now the city councils will consider.

Another initiative?  Making restaurant menus healthier while still making money.

Burden says 30 restaurants have agreed to change the way they make food and do business to offer residents healthier choices.

“There were a lot of obstacles to this entire plan, but we’re trying to be more forward thinking about what those obstacles might be and how to address them to make them more do-able.   At the end of the day, people do want healthier choices.”

Cheryl Getuiza is a communications specialist with California Forward.


Cheryl Getuiza

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