Community Profile: Los Angeles County, California
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Obesity and Tobacco Use Prevention
“PROVIDING HEALTHY FOOD AND BEVERAGE OPTIONS AT SCHOOL MEALS, ALONG WITH EDUCATION ON HEALTHY EATING AND ACTIVE LIVING, HAVE THE POTENTIAL TO IMPROVE THE HEALTH OF STUDENTS, REDUCE RATES OF CHILDHOOD AND ADOLESCENT OBESITY, AND IMPROVE ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE. THESE BENEFITS ARE LIKELY TO BE LONG LASTING AS HEALTHY BEHAVIORS ADOPTED IN CHILDHOOD OFTEN CONTINUE INTO ADULTHOOD, RESULTING IN DECREASED RISK OF CHRONIC DISEASES AND THE COSTS ASSOCIATED WITH THESE PREVENTABLE DISEASES.”
— Department of Public Health
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“I CARRY A BLANKET IN MY CAR AND I USUALLY STOP TO SIT AND READ A BOOK IN THE PARK. IT'S MUCH BETTER NOW, BECAUSE YOU DON'T HAVE THE SMELL OF CIGARETTES.”
— Denise, Inglewood resident
Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) is an initiative designed to make healthy living easier by promoting environmental changes at the local level. Through funding awarded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2010, a total of 50 communities are working to prevent obesity and tobacco use—the two leading preventable causes of death and disability.
Los Angeles (LA) County, California, is tackling obesity and tobacco use throughout the community. As the most populous county in the United States, LA County encompasses 88 cities and 93 school districts, and is home to a diverse population of more than 9.8 million people. Obesity rates are rising in LA County–24.3% of adults and more than 20% of students in junior high school are obese. LA County's adult smoking rate (11.7%) is among the lowest of any U.S. metropolitan area. However, after declining for several years, smoking prevalence has remained fairly steady. The smoking rate among high school students in the city of LA declined from 26% in 1997 to 12% in 2005, but has since leveled off, and is now around 11%.
Obesity and tobacco use rates are disproportionately high among certain populations. For example, within a one-mile radius, the childhood obesity rate is as low as 4% in one neighborhood and as high as 37% in another, with the highest obesity rates in low-income neighborhoods. Smoking in LA County is higher among black men (32.1%), black women (19.6%), Asian- American men (20.5%), and Latino men (17.7%) than the entire population. In addition to obesity and tobacco use prevention efforts aimed at the county's entire population, certain initiatives target these high-risk groups.
If healthy options are not available, then healthy living is not possible. With the support of the CPPW initiative, LA County has implemented a variety of changes throughout the community to make healthy living easier.
To decrease the prevalence of obesity, LA County:
- Increased access to healthy foods for more than 6,000 low-income residents by encouraging farmers' markets to accept Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards as a form of payment.
- Created the Model Streets Manual to inform the development of streets that encourage healthy and active lifestyles.
- Developed guidelines that limit the establishment of fast food restaurants in the city of LA, especially in areas with high obesity and poverty rates.
- Increased LA county residents' physical activity opportunities by developing a model for joint-use agreements, which are formal agreements that establish terms and conditions for shared use of public property or facilities.
- Secured the commitment of seven city councils in the LA County South Bay region to support the creation of a regional bicycle master plan.
To decrease tobacco use, LA County:
- Transitioned the Santa Monica Pier to become smoke-free, protecting the 4 million people who patronize the pier annually from the dangers of exposure to secondhand smoke.
- Established 33 smoke-free parks and recreational areas in the cities of Inglewood and Torrance.
- Extended the number of smoke-free areas to include public spaces and common areas, such as multi-unit housing, outdoor malls, and entertainment venues, to further protect the residents of LA County from exposure to secondhand smoke.
- Established smoke-free outdoor dining locations in West Hollywood, providing the 35,000 residents of this city with the opportunity to dine in a tobacco-free environment.
(The list above is a sample of all activities completed by the community.)
Cities in LA County Work to Improve Residents' Nutrition
Three cities in LA County are increasing the availability of nutritious food among residents. The city of La Puente adopted nutrition guidelines to ensure that all snacks, entrees, and beverages sold in city facilities and institutions meet healthy standards. Long Beach, the second-largest city in LA County, took similar action. All snacks and beverages sold in vending machines on city property and served at city-sponsored events must follow nutrition standards including limited fat, sugar, sodium, and calories. The city of South El Monte requires that all procurement and contractual negotiations for the provision of foods and beverages meet specific nutrition standards. These efforts will impact a total of 625,151 residents.
LA Creates the Fresh Air Dining LA Campaign
The city of LA is taking action to protect restaurant patrons and workers from the dangers of breathing in secondhand smoke. Through the Fresh Air Dining LA initiative, the city is promoting the establishment of smokefree outdoor dining areas. This effort features multimedia elements, including outdoor advertisements throughout the city; radio announcements on major English- and Spanish-language radio stations in the region; and digital media components including a website, online banner ads, and social media efforts.
The leadership team includes high-level community leaders from multiple sectors, who have the combined resources and capacity to make healthy living easier. Members of LA County's leadership team are key agents for change in their community. The leadership team includes representatives from the following organizations:
- Accord Limited
- Active Living Research, San Diego State University
- Advisory Council on Aging and Independence Services
- American Heart Association Western States Affiliates
- American Lung Association in California
- City of Baldwin Park
- Coalition for a Tobacco-Free LA County
- Community Health Councils, Inc.
- Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Southern California Region
- Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce
- Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors
- Los Angeles County Department of Public Health
- Los Angeles Unified School District
- State Senate Offices
- The California Endowment
- University of California, Los Angeles School of Public Health
- University of California, San Francisco Tobacco Cessation Leadership Center
- Page last reviewed: October 25, 2013
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