GREENING THE EAST LA FOOD DESERT + REDUCING CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE RISK
East Los Angeles is a food desert. According to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, its population suffers high rates of obesity-related chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and stroke. It has some of the highest rates of childhood obesity (32.2%) in the county.
As part of a five-year project funded by the National Institutes for Health (NIH), Public Matters is working at the UCLA Center for Population Health + Health Disparities (CPHHD) with the UCLA School of Public Health and the USC Keck School of Medicine to increase the availability and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables in this under-served area. One of 10 NIH Centers for Population Health + Health Disparities (CPHHD) across the country, “Family and Neighborhood Interventions To Reduce Heart Disease Risk in East L.A.” seeks to reduce cardiovascular disease risk among Latinos in East Los Angeles.
Public Matters’ work is central to CPHHD‘s neighborhood-based intervention, which addresses healthy food access by implementing market makeovers, a comprehensive, participatory, community-based strategy that reconfigures existing local stores to carry healthier food inventory.
Market makeovers are a practical, homegrown solution to healthy food access in communities like East L.A. with few existing sources of fresh foods and fewer prospects for comprehensive grocery store development. Building on existing business infrastructure, customers, and community resources, this intervention strategy transforms local markets from chronic public health nuisance to neighborhood asset. By demonstrating how to make healthy food retail financially viable in East L.A., this work seeks to advance policy, systems and environmental changes to “green the East L.A. food desert.”
Over the course of five years, the project will implement four market makeovers, transforming selected stores into community assets where people can buy healthy food and learn about healthy food consumption and preparation. These markets will serve as role models for profitable, and thereby sustainable, healthy food retail in East L.A.
The comprehensive work plan includes:
* interior + exterior store renovation
* storeowner training
* business development
* workshops with local youth training them in social marketing, health, nutrition + market makeover practices
* community engagement
* social marketing
* education around healthy food behaviors
* youth leadership development
* cultural sensitivity
The project aims to:
* Identify the factors necessary to persuade + enable corner store owners to convert their stores into community sources of healthy, fresh, and affordable foods;
* Determine best practices for marketing + promotion of healthy food options in resource-poor communities, working with corner stores, youth, and other community partners;
* Describe the factors that are related to maintaining + sustaining corner store conversions in resource-poor Latino communities;
* Assess the impact of corner market store conversions on community-level food + nutrition knowledge, attitudes toward healthy eating, and self-efficacy for food purchasing, preparing, + consuming, as well as food behaviors.
PUBLIC MATTERS’ ROLE
Public Matters leads the education and social marketing efforts, training students from two local high schools, East LA Renaissance Academy at Esteban Torres High School and the School of Communications New Media + Technology at Roosevelt High School.
* create a multi-faceted, grassroots social marketing campaign to promote healthy food consumption as well as the newly transformed markets;
* perform hands-on work transforming the selected stores;
* serve as community health advocates on behalf of the project‘s efforts.
Public Matters’ market makeover process encompasses both supply and demand. The goal is to establish a new cycle of food retail in East L.A. In addition to working directly with storeowners and youth to increase the supply of fresh + healthy food in local stores, Public Matters will work with the Community Advisory Board and community members at-large to create + demonstrate consistent demand (increased sales + consumption of fruits + vegetables among customers) through strategic education + social marketing efforts.
“Family and Neighborhood Interventions To Reduce Heart Disease Risk in East L.A.,” the UCLA Center for Population Health + Health Disparities (CPHHD) seeks to:
* Provide an interdisciplinary, multilayered approach to reduce CVD risk in East L.A.;
* Build on collective expertise and experiences to create innovative, interdisciplinary community and environmentally focused interventions and research questions regarding Latino CVD disparities;
* Organize Center projects that complement and interact with each other to provide a supportive and productive research environment;
* Implement interventions that have environmental prongs and potential sustainability;
* Build long-term capacity and contribute to local and national efforts to reduce and eliminate CVD disparities in high-risk Latino families.
top: Project 3 (a.k.a. the Market Makeovers crew): Front row (left to right): Brent Langellier, Mike Blockstein, Reanne Estrada, Debra Glik, Alex Ortega, Heather Hammer, Rosa-Elena Garcia, Jeremiah Garza; Back row: Ron Brookmeyer, Nathan Cheng, Mike Prelip
bottom: The UCLA-USC Center for Population Health + Health Disparities Team with Scientific Advisory Board + Community Advisory Board members