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Grantee Profile: Asian and Pacific Islander Obesity Prevention Alliance

July 30, 2012
 
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Pacific Islanders in Los Angeles County are an underserved population with high obesity rates - and many in the community avoid going to their local parks because they believe they are unsafe and unwelcoming. With a First 5 LA Community Opportunity Fund grant, the Asian and Pacific Islander Obesity Prevention Alliance is working to change that in two Pacific Islander communities.

Safe and Active Family Environments for Asians and Pacific Islanders aims to increase physical activity in Pacific Islander neighborhoods by advocating that local parks adopt safety and cleanliness standards and hold culturally appropriate family programs to promote active and healthy lifestyles. Lennox Park in Lennox, which has a large Tongan community, and Victoria Park in Carson, where there are many Samoans, as well as Chamorros from Guam, are the first parks to participate.

"We've seen when people use parks more they're more likely to be more active, join sports teams - that's what we really want," said Scott Chan, APIOPA project coordinator. "The most important thing is we start young - get 0 to 5 years olds to understand that parks are fun, exercise is fun. It's not a chore, not about working off weight gained - if we can get that mindset in there, it would be great."

S.A.F.E. began with surveys of Pacific Islanders in Lennox and Carson. In Lennox, where more than 2,000, or about 9 percent, of the population is under 5 and there are more than 500 Asians or Pacific Islanders, according to the U.S. Census, most the respondents believed Lennox Park was not safe. The majority said they don't use Lennox Park, even though it is conveniently located next to a church many Tongans attend, because they fear gang activity and other crimes or violence.

Asians and Pacific Islanders in Carson, who make up about 28 percent of the population, reported similar concerns that keep them away from Victoria Park. Survey respondents mostly thought the park was moderately safe, but most said they only went once to a few times each year.

Since the surveys were completed, Chan said community meetings to discuss the results and plans going forward are being well received by residents, as well as lawmakers and law enforcement officials. The recommendations for both parks includes a walking trail with adequate lighting until later in the night, community classes and activities that are culturally appropriate and cleaner and safer parks.

This summer and always, First 5 LA, as well as its parenting component Ready. Set. Grow! and its place-based effort Best Start, want families with young children to learn about ways to increase physical activity and healthy eating to combat the childhood obesity epidemic. Please read more about the campaign in a previous Monday Morning Report article and visit the campaign web hub on Ready. Set. Grow!

To learn more about APIOPA, including its Community Supported Agriculture program and health and nutrition advocacy classes, visit their website at www.apiopa.org.

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