As popular fast-food chains such as Raising Cane’s and In-N-Out continue to open stores and thrive on hungry stomachs in the North San Joaquin County District, the combined rate of overweight and obesity soared to over 65% of the local population. , a historic high.
By focusing on certain priority communities and engaging with the community to address the socioeconomic and ethnic disparities that are driving the obesity epidemic, it is not too late to reverse the rate. Exceeding California’s obesity rate by almost 7%, San Joaquin County Public Health has launched numerous initiatives to promote active and healthier lifestyles for all members of their community.
Rising obesity rates in San Joaquin County can be attributed to widespread risk factors such as lack of access to care, food insecurity, and mental and behavioral health. In San Joaquin County’s 2022 Community Health Assessment, the areas were identified as priority neighborhoods recognizing the need to address socioeconomic disparities, transportation, housing, and climate issues, among others. factors.
Physical activity and nutrition are important factors in the prevention of obesity and obesity-related diseases. However, San Joaquin County residents experience higher rates of poor physical health and heart disease. Not only does obesity occur at higher rates among the adult population, but also among the county’s youth. For children living in San Joaquin County in grades 5, 7, and 9, 5, 7, and 9, the obesity rate was reported to be 43% compared to the California average of 40%.
Currently, the San Joaquin Valley has two major state-funded and operated public health service programs to combat rising rates of obesity. The first is the Network Campaign, a project specifically focused on promoting individualized diet and exercise for low-income residents. This program uses a social media campaign and after-school programs to reach students in socio-economically disadvantaged schools, and partners with these schools to integrate healthy eating habits into the school curriculum. Success has been seen especially in food demonstrations and integration with physical education classes.
The second program is the Central California Regional Obesity Prevention Program, based in southern Stockton. This program encourages political and environmental change to lay the foundation for adopting healthy habits, creating safe places to play and access to healthy food.
In 2009, San Joaquin County established an Obesity and Chronic Disease Prevention Task Force to reduce the incidence and prevalence of obesity in the county. While recognizing and forming an organization to fight obesity is a huge step, effective implementation and consistency will be the real test.
San Joaquin County Public Health Services also provides educational resources to introduce healthy eating and active habits at a young age. They partner with Leah’s Pantry to offer nutrition and food preparation classes. The CATCH program, or coordinated approach to child health, provides a platform to encourage families to engage in physical activity.
Additionally, CalFresh benefits, a food assistance program provided by the California Department of Social Services, is also an available resource for low-income individuals and families. This food assistance program provides monthly food benefits and aims to promote healthier eating by purchasing nutritious foods such as fruits and vegetables. CalFresh benefits can also be used at farmers markets, providing individuals with access to fresh produce. Interested readers should visit their website: getcalfresh.org.
As different fast-food and fast-casual food options become more popular than older mom-and-pop shops and more traditional farm-to-table restaurants, more effort needs to be made to improve educational programs that promote healthy lifestyles. and support policies that help the underserved. communities to combat the widespread and harmful effects of obesity.
Guneet Gill and Stephen Gong-Guy are students in the Doctor of Dental Surgery program, and Parvati Iyer and David Ojcius are professors at the University of the Pacific School of Dentistry.