Richmond hosts forum on nutrition and physical activity
on June 6, 2011
More that 220 nutritionists, physicians, policy makers and community activists met in Richmond on Friday to discuss ways to improve and transform public health.
The 6th Annual Physical Activity and Nutrition Forum, which was held at Richmond’s Civic Auditorium, was organized by the Network of Healthy California, the statewide movement of local, state and national partners working toward improving the health status of low-income Californians through encouraging increased fruit and vegetable consumption and daily physical activity. Other organizers include the American Diabetes Association and the City of Richmond.
“It is the first time we’ve done it in Richmond,” said Carmen Bogan, event chair and Physical Activity Coordinator at the Network of Healthy California. “Richmond is beginning to launch a lot of health initiatives and really focuses on urban agriculture and open play spaces for children and adults. As we’ve never done it in Contra Costa County, we thought it would be wonderful to bring this event to Richmond.”
The theme of this year’s forum was “Out of the Box and Into the Community.” As Bogan explained, it stresses the new approach towards health education. “Sometimes specialists, discussing the health topics, end up being ‘in the box’—not being creative and doing the same things over and over again,” she said. “We want to change that, be creative, be maybe more risky and reach out to the communities.”
One way of expressing creativity during the forum was to organize the “Play Academy,” where experts reminded adult participants the power of play. In between discussions and workshops, the forum’s participants found themselves practicing hip-hop dance and Zumba, a dance fitness program combining international music with intensive workout. “We didn’t want to only talk about physical activity, so we decided to teach adults how to play,” Bogan explains. “You can’t teach kids how to play if the only thing you do is to sit on a couch and watch television.”
However, the main aim of the forum was to discuss the basic difficulties that low income communities face on their way to maintaining healthy lifestyles. “The biggest challenge for communities like Richmond is often a lack of resources,” Bogan said. “Often the children don’t have places to go and do physical activities, sometimes fresh fruits and vegetables are not accessible, and sometimes the wrong things are accessible. In some communities it’s easier to get fast, salty, fat food then to get really fresh fruits and vegetables.”
That is why the forum focused on urban agriculture, food advocacy and increasing healthy physical activity behaviors, for example by encouraging residents and community activists to take advantage of the East Bay Regional Parks.
Janice Chin, who represented the California Healthy Kids Resource Center, specialist library located in Hayward, thought the event was a big success. “Our center is the kind of library where professionals working with kids can use, free of charge, comprehensive collection of reviewed health education materials,” she said. “Events such as this forum bring together people who are right on the forefront of working with kids and communities. For us it’s really important to build the connections with those frontline folks, that they know we are here and we support what they do.”
Organizing the annual forums is only one of many initiatives taken by The Network of Healthy California. By initiating numerous campaigns and programs aimed at low income communities, the movement’s representatives try to encourage people to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and advocate for food security and physical activity.
“We believe that by doing this we can cut down on chronic diseases such as diabetes and certain types of cancer,” Bogan said. She also pointed out that thanks to initiatives like the Network of Healthy California, the significant improvement in people’s attitudes towards health can be noticed. According to her, people are staring to understand their right to a healthy lifestyle.
“They become more aware and are not so willing to accept whatever is given to them,” Bogan said. “They are empowered to advocate for having the types of food and play spaces, for having the communities that make it possible for them to live healthy lives.”
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