In the know: UCLA School of Public Health
By Itak Moradi
Nov. 4, 2011 12:39 a.m.
The UCLA–USC Center for Population Health and Health Disparities announced the commencement of its healthy food project last week. Inside our own UCLA School of Public Health, the multidisciplinary center focuses on reducing cardiovascular disease among Latinos in East Los Angeles through community organizing and research.
In addition to in-home interventions that will give health care access and help identify disease risk markers between generations, its more public endeavor is truly commendable: The center is renovating corner stores in the area so that they offer healthier food choices.
The broader motivation of the project is to identify how health can be affected by immigration and acculturation and to then combat and prevent what negative effects they do find.
The first store reopened Oct. 29, and changes included moving junk food to the back of the store while creating health food displays in the front, removing soda and beer advertisements, rebuilding windows to allow more natural light inside and planting a vegetable garden in the empty backlot.
This is a fantastic move from the UCLA School of Public Health to address health concerns in underserved communities. It is no secret that the further inner city one goes, the less access there is to grocery stores and local produce, while fast food chains become alarmingly abundant.
Though I’m weary of oversimplification, the above is in large part a matter of geographical racism. It is a matter of public policy shortcomings, lack of equal funding, and legislative brushes under the rug for the health and education issues in economically struggling communities.
This project will help establish whether such renovations are financially sustainable, as well as whether they even have an impact on community health behavior.
East L.A. is more than 96 percent Latino and suffers from high rates of chronic diseases related to obesity.
The final results of this project will be published in two to three years, and I have high hopes that the findings will promote similar action in deserving, though underserved, communities.
I also commend the four business owners who decided to take a chance with UCLA and create change for the better.