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UCLA, USC campaign for urban health

By Heidi Redlitz

April 6, 2010 9:44 p.m.

While USC-UCLA Global Health Awareness Week seeks to educate a wide pool of students about the plight of global urban communities, it also incites active service from students within the more immediate Los Angeles community.

To complement this week’s discussion panels and exhibits, Soccer in the Streets, an event scheduled for April 18 in Huntington Park as part of Global Health Awareness Week, encourages UCLA students to volunteer for the city-wide health fair and soccer clinic. The event will promote fitness and nutrition for youth in this particular Los Angeles community, according to the Global Health Awareness Week Web Site.

“At a university, education is of the utmost importance and is very highly valued, so this is encouraging people to advocate for (addressing public health issues) and to act on the things they learn,” said Julia Chang, UCLA medical student and personal relations manager for UCLA’s Global Health Awareness Week committee.

“The hope is that we’ll continue to be involved even after (this week),” she added.

Assisted by players from the USC and UCLA women’s soccer teams, about ten coaches from the Los Angeles Futbol Club will instruct a series of soccer clinics and gamesfor participating Huntington Park youth, said Christina Baglin, director of programs for the Los Angeles Futbol Club Foundation.

Meanwhile, the health fair will bring together a number of local clinics, as well as UCLA and USC health groups, to provide general health services for the Huntington Park community.

Booths will offer body mass index, glucose and HIV testing, and other services including health screenings, eye exams and dental workshops, said Quynh-Minh Tran, event co-coordinator at USC.

In order to encourage the youth and their families to visit the various booths, each child will be given a booklet at registration. After receiving at least five stamps from the various booths, they will be given a free soccer ball, donated by the soccer club, said Tran.

“One part (of the event) is the actual on-site treatment. The other part is getting community organizations to set up tents and hand out fliers to … expand their reach in the community,” said Max Hadler, UCLA graduate student and the event coordinator at UCLA.

“It’s great that the kids are doing it, and ideally kids will bring out families, providing incentive to pass out information, (whether it be) to kids or their parents,” he added.

Because approximately 40 percent of Huntington Park’s childrwen are obese, the city’s Department of Parks & Recreation has partnered with the Los Angeles Futbol Club Foundation to build two full-size soccer fields.

The organizations will also provide proper coaching and necessary soccer equipment for the community.

One in three Huntington Park residents are under the age of 18, so the soccer foundation has high hopes that the area’s youthful population will be more receptive to the healthy changes being made in the community, according to their Web site.

The burgeoning alliance between the Los Angeles Futbol Club Foundation and Huntington Park, along with the predominant health issues in the community, attracted the USC Health Institute and UCLA organizers to collaborate and organize the event.

“It’s more of a holistic approach ““ it’s not just soccer. We’re working with partners so they can bring the (nutritional) aspect,” Baglin said.

Soccer in the Streets’ combined promotion of physical activity and proper nutrition emphasizes lifestyle changes in the long run.

The development of both diabetes and obesity is largely correlated with a combination of genetic factors and negative environmental influences.

A sedentary lifestyle, as well as the availability of fast-food restaurants over grocery stores stocked with fresh goods, makes communities especially susceptible to the conditions, said Dr. Andrew Drexler, professor of medicine and director of the Gonda Diabetes Center at UCLA.

“Mostly fitness and nutrition are preventative of obesity and diabetes. If you don’t have good nutrition you can develop diabetes. If you don’t exercise, you can develop obesity, so they’re all linked,” said Kelly Leech, event co-coordinator at USC.

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