According to the CDC, childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. “In 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.” Obese children are at a significantly higher risk for developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and bone and joint problems as adults.
In 2005–2006, the Public Health Department (PHD) found that 29 percent of local, preschool children, 3–5 years old, were at-risk or overweight. In 2009, Cal Poly, in partnership with the Maternal Child and Adolescent Health Program of Public Health conducted a study at 16 preschools measuring the height and weight of 512 children. Data revealed that 37 percent of SLO County preschoolers were overweight or obese. Data from the California Department of Education, 2005-2006, show that 32.1 percent of SLOCounty 5th, 7th, and 9th graders are at risk or overweight and 68.4 percent are not physically fit. According to the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) results for the Gold Coast Region in 2001-2005, 56.6% of adults were overweight or obese.
The severity of the obesity epidemic and the costs that will come with it later on in life inspired community action, such as the Healthy Eating, Active Living – SLO (HEAL-SLO) Coalition.
HEAL-SLO was founded in 2005 comprising of loosely knit individuals. Urged by Health Commission, PHD, and Community members, the Board of Supervisors endorsed the creation of a Childhood Obesity Prevention Task Force (COPTF) in February 2006 to develop a county-wide Strategic Action Plan (http://www.sloccf.org/forms/Giving-CN-ChildhoodObesity.pdf ). County leaders funded SLO County Community Foundation to convene and facilitate the Task Force.
In 2007 the Community Action Plan was completed and made as a guide for collaborative efforts, which included recommended actions and funding for a Health Educator position housed within the Public Health Department to coordinate and maintain a functioning county-wide coalition. The previously loosely knit individuals and the COPTF group solidified as the collaborative called HEAL-SLO through this process.
- Healthy Communities Month: Declared by the Board of Supervisors to be October in 2011 and 2012. Incorporated 19 healthy events in 2011 and 30 healthy events in 2012. Events have included the Heritage Oaks Fun Run, City to Sea Half Marathon, American Heart Association’s Heart Walk, Hunger Walk, SLO Bicycle Club Rally, Walk to School Day, Bioneers, and the 2012 Healthy Communities Summit.
- “Re-Think Your Drink” Campaign: To date, this campaign has been presented over 300 times and has reached over 4,000 people. Audiences have included all ages, from preschoolers to senior-citizens, and have encouraged people to make healthier choices when deciding what to drink.
- “Go, Slow, Whoa” Campaign: Use the light to snack right! A traffic light model is used to rethink how audiences approach snacking. From 2010 to 2013, this campaign was presented over 200 times and reached over 1000 people.
- Buy Local Policy: This was HEAL-SLO’s first policy initiative aimed at promoting healthy living and individual community health. The policy has been adopted by various communities on the Central Coast because it helps to create an environment that supports health and improved quality of life.
- Walkability Survey Project: CX3 community surveys were conducted in Arroyo Grande, Paso Robles, San Miguel and Oceano, and was funded by the Community Foundation. The surveys assessed food availability, walkability infrastructure and marketing. Walkability examines how well an area caters to pedestrians versus cars, with key indicators being sidewalks, speed limits and crosswalks.
- Presciption Walking Trails: the Parks and Rec Department, YMCA and members of HEAL-SLO developed 4 different brochures of walking trails specific for North County, South County, Coastal and San Luis Obispo areas. The brochures were distributed to local physicians to use in their practice as an encouragement tool for physical activity.
- TCE Grant: HEAL-SLO has recently received a 2 year grant from The California Endowment (TCE) from Nov. 2008-Nov. 2010 to impact school wellness policy in 2 target pilot schools – Lillian Larsen Elementary (San Miguel, CA) and Oceano Elementary (Oceano, CA) through two partners, Oceano Boys and Girls Club and the San Miguel Resource Connection.
- Farm to Cafeteria Conference Attendance: HEAL-SLO funded both Food Service Directors from Lillian Larsen Elementary and the Lucia Mar School District
- Walk to School Days: San Miguel participated in their first Walk to School Day (W2S) on October 8th, 2008 and had 75% school participation! HEAL-SLO has been actively involved and successfully partnered with SLO County schools for Walk to School Day every year since 2008.
- Smart Growth Principles: These principles have been continually appearing on the Board of Supervisors’ agenda.