Imperial Valley Aims To Shed 100,000 Pounds
This is KPBS Mid-Day edition. I am Maureen Cavanaugh. Lots of people start off here by making a personal resolution to lose weight and get fit but its news when a whole community is challenged to eat healthy, get more exercise, and lose up to 100,000 pounds. That is the Valley Challenge presented by the Imperial Valley press to its readers and all residents of Imperial County. The challenges upbeat but the problem is quite serious. Or residents of Imperial County are overweight or obese than any other county in California. Joining me is Gerard Delaney, the publisher of the Imperial Valley press. Welcome to the program. Jeanette is community health deputy director for the Imperial County public health department. Welcome to the program. Gerard, what's a newspaper doing starting a weight-loss challenge? We feel the newspaper has a responsibility to the community. We are part of the community and the community really owns us. We are guardians of the paper. We feel that we have that obligation to look out for the community be it journalism or looking out for their health as well. Who came up with this idea? It was a newspaper. What can we do to really help move the needle a little bit in the County and two major problems in the County. One is economy and the others health. As you stated, we are one of the most overweight or obese counties in California. And in the nation. And there is no excuse for. Six months here we have the most perfect weather in the world. Lots of jogging trails, lots of five K runs, all kinds of things to do. We have to get people out there to do it. What kinds of resources are the paper and community sponsors putting into this effort? Food classes, exercise challenges that go along with it? One who first look at this we figure we would start watching a bunch of activities. But we realize that they are out there already. Most of them are funding nonprofit organizations. We have runs, one the other day for the Humane Society. One coming up which sponsors the Special Olympics. A bunch of different things which fund charitable organizations. Rather than compete against them we leverage them. Brought more and more people to them, help them raise more funds and more awareness of their cause. 100,000 pounds by March 31. That is quite a goal. How many people do expect will take part in this challenge? Very hard for us to tell. We're hoping that if we get temper some of the community, about 18,000 people, that would be a wonderful number. We're putting a 90 day challenge of there. 100,000 pounds because you have to set a smart goal. But we don't want to stop March 31. That is our starting point. We want to change lifestyles and habits and keep this thing going on year after year. How did you come up with 100,000-pound figure? When we started looking at that without we were smart. Without we were the only ones doing it and we saw that Oklahoma City did 1 million pounds in a year. 450,000 people there, we just scaled it back a little bit and made it a manageable number. Are you tracking the progress of this? We have a website called the Valley Challenge .com. People put their starting weight and finishing weight and track their activities. Their nutrition, how much they're eating and set a nutritional goal and calorie counting goal and tractors the. A lot of different ways. Are you suggesting any specific kind of a diet? No. We are not health experts. We don't want to tell people they need to be on a low-carb or high-protein diet. There are millions of resources out there. They're just trying to bring all the resources such as the public health department, the fitness clubs throughout the Valley. I may bring Jeanette into the conversation. Community health deputy director for the Imperial County public health department. What is the obesity rate for adults and kids in Imperial County? For children two to four, 29.9% of overweight and obese and children five to 19 years of age is 40.3%. It is the adults, closer to 78% and we are the second highest in California. Fourth highest in the US? That is a statistic I would have to get back to on but in California we are the second-highest. Raising the health problems that come with obesity? Type II diabetes, yes, problems in adults. We have other issues, bone problems, cancers, so we have those problems tied to obesity, yes. What does the public health department think about the Valley Challenge? When we heard about it, we thought it was great. And Gerard actually approached our director and asked what can you do, and I was tasked and I started talking to Gerard and we said there is so much are ready going on in the community, and we are talking about overweight and obesity, it is not a simple subject. It is very complex. And we were talking about there is so much that people can do, but there are so many factors that affect overweight and obesity. We have six months of wonderful weather but then we have six months of very hot weather. 120 degrees. What do we do? We're in the desert area. What kind of activities are there with -- that folks can do in the community? We need to take a look at the different factors. We need to look at the environment, the genetics, there is not a simple answer to the overweight and obesity issue. Is there a problem? I know Gerard was saying you have two problems, two major problems in Imperial County. Economics and obesity. And do they cross? Do they relate in some way? In other words, is poverty in Imperial County one of the factors for being overweight or obese? Income has to do -- studies have shown that those that are in poverty are at greater risk. Yes, they are related. We do have a high unemployment rate in Imperial County. We do have high poverty rate. We do have a migrant population. And so definitely, there is a relationship there. There has been talk in San Diego when it comes to areas that are lower income that you find a lot of food deserts. Only places where people can go in and get fast food and perhaps more unhealthy food. And not places where people can go and buy fresh produce and the kinds of things that would increase the chances that they would have a healthy lifestyle and a healthy menu. In Imperial County, Gerard and I were talking about it. We have to be larger cities. We do have the larger grocery stores, and slowly but surely we do have some farmers markets, but we have our areas that they are considered food deserts. Where we have entities such as the Imperial Valley food Bank where they try to reach out to these outlying areas so that these foods can be taken to them. So yes. Welcome another guest to our discussion here. Fidel González's President and CEO of first Imperial credit union in Imperial County. And he is taking the Valley Challenge. Welcome to the program. Thank you for having me. Why did you decide to join it challenge? Important for us to change our mindset about being more healthy. When we talk to Gerard about it, I looked at him not necessarily as a weight-loss thing but as eating better and being healthier all-around. When I shared it with the employees they got excited about spitting in this. How do you join in the challenge? What are you doing at work to make that possible? What we did, just being a part of it and doing it for health reasons, I told the employees for every pound that we lost as a team we will donate it to a nonprofit. So if the group ends up losing 500 pounds, we will donate 500 and the credit union will double that. We could donate $1000 to a nonprofit if we chose to do is to the Imperial Bell -- Imperial Valley food Bank. They do a great program for kids. Backpack program and gives food to the kids. The low-income kids. And it is healthy food for kids. That is one of the issues we have is that the children are obese. That got the employees excited about participating. How much weight has her group lost so far? Through January, 142. Graduations. I have only lost eight so I have 12 to go. Is a difficult to stay motivated? I don't think so. It is nice to see progress. Even if it is a pound or two a week it is nice to see the progress. Him him individually and as a group. 22 employees the third doing it are super excited. Congratulations and thanks for joining us. Fidel González present CEO of first Imperial credit union in Imperial County. This challenge expires in a way at the end of the month. So far participants if you look on the website, they of lost fewer than 1000 pounds. A long way to go to reach 100,000. What you feeling about that now? I don't think everyone who is doing this has signed up because they ask a lot of questions. They ask your weight, where you want to be, we size, things like that get a little personal so people are little hesitant to put that type of information on a website that out there talking to people you just know that they are out there doing it. It would be hard for us to track 100,000 pounds. At the end of the day that is not a real goal. Our goal is to get the Imperial Valley much healthier and we have partners like Fidel, like public health department and health sciences and all the cities have come on his major sponsors. Two major hospitals as well and we have a really good coalition. Has part of the challenge of the Valley Challenge been getting the message out to people who live in Imperial County? Absolutely. We are the major news source for the Valley so it's been easier for us to get it out. But it's been fantastic having these organizations, having the city and having the County and having all those people push this among their employees. Also the Imperial County office of education is come aboard. Not only employs the teachers and students as well. You told me that you may not say the numbers on the website but from what you are hearing, that a lot of people are excited. What kinds of comments and feedback have you been getting about the Valley Challenge? I have become the brunt of a lot of jokes about obesity police. They hide their colas when I come in the room. It's neat seeing people out there. The mayor probably lost 20 pounds of car. A lot of people that are really taking this seriously and setting an example for other people. What kind of feedback and comments have you been hearing about this? It's been great. As Gerard said the community comes together. We have actually -- have a very unique community where we are tackling this issue. And the resources are there. And he is not alone, where we provide at that education that is needed. We have the information as to what can we do to get that community to be a healthier community? It's about that. It is looking at everything, not just one area and how can Imperial County become healthier? As a whole, I think our whole community has come together to talk about this issue and actually make a difference and take action. Tonight your document figure such as 30%, 40% for children and teenagers who are considered overweight or obese in Imperial County. Has there been any connection with the schools? Are the schools embracing this in any way? Definitely. We have done quite a bit of work and this was before the challenge. We have been working with centers, schools, the office of education, and community organizations through many different programs and strategies that address obesity prevention. And through the nutrition education and obesity prevention programs through the first five programs, where we go out and do preschool gardens and we had our choice working with schools community recreation centers, the community clinics. We are trying to fill in all those gaps and implement strategies. Evidence-based, they have shown that it can help reduce obesity. We have been added for quite some time already and with this challenge Imperial Valley press is our local press. Not only do they have an English version, they also have [ Indiscernible ] who is targeting the Spanish speakers. We're trying to cover all the bases and fill in those gaps. Jeanette, as a public health official what advice would you have for people who are trying to take part in this challenge? They're trying to lose weight. What kind of advice would you give them? It's never easy. It is not easy. There are many factors including genetics. But it's not impossible. Make change happen. A bit at a time. Don't give up. There are many resources out there. Seek assistance from your public health department. Talk to your medical provider about it. There are resources that are at no cost. There is nutrition education classes, learning going on, definitely. I think for stop can be the public health Department and from there we can definitely guide you throughout our community and say this is what we have for you. But is it easy? No. A step at a time, definitely. Changing behavior, that's what we want to do. Let's eat healthier, let's do more physical activity. Enjoy it while you are at it. Gerard, what will make this challenge, this Imperial Valley Challenge, a success for you on March 31? Just the participation of everybody in the County. Jeanette had it. It is that first up. Genetics plays a part, what we tell people is you don't have to be skinny. You don't have to be a muscleman. You just have to be the best person you can be. I want to thank you both for talk about this. I have been speaking with Gerard Delaney publisher of Imperial Valley press and Jeanette, she is community health deputy director for the Imperial County Public health Department. Thanks for coming in and good luck. Thank you very much.
Imperial Valley is embarking on a major challenge — to become one of the healthiest communities in California and the nation.
The Imperial Valley Press launched a campaign this year, called the "Valley Challenge," to get its readers and all residents of Imperial County to eat healthy, get more exercise and lose 100,000 pounds collectively to fight the problem of obesity.
"While our stated goal is to lose 100,000 pounds in 90 days, our real objective is to make people think, make healthy choices, realize that they are in control of their health, and can and often do influence the people around them. We are hoping to effect a lifestyle change," said Imperial Valley Press publisher Gerald Delaney.
According to the Imperial County Public Health Department, nearly 80 percent of adults in the county are obese or overweight, the second highest rate in the state. Meanwhile, 40 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 20 are obese or overweight, and 30 percent of children between ages 2 and 5 are obese.
Imperial County Public Health Department community health deputy director Janette Angulo said poverty is a contributing factor to the county's obesity rates. The county consistently has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state. In December, it was 21 percent.
"Studies have shown those in poverty are at greater risk," Angulo said.
Delaney said the newspaper decided to launch the effort because it "has a responsibility to the community."
Delaney said he believes many more people are participating but are hesitant to report their weight and measurements on the website.
The website aims to bring together resources encouraging healthy eating and physical activity in the Imperial Valley.
Fidel Gonzalez, president and CEO at First Imperial Credit Union, is a participant in the Valley Challenge and is encouraging employees of the the credit union to participate.
For every pound employees of the credit union lose, the company is donating $2 to the Imperial Valley Food Bank. The food bank was selected, Gonzalez said, because of a program it has that provides healthy food to low-income children. He said this has served to get the employees excited to participate.
The 22 employees participating lost 142 pounds through January, Gonzalez said.
"I think its important for us to change our mind-set about being more healthy," Gonzalez said.