By Wendy Fry
CHULA VISTA—Chula Vista has been chosen as one of six cities across the nation to attack childhood obesity by addressing violence in parks and public spaces.
The goal is to promote active living by creating a safer community.
The small pilot project, coordinated by the Oakland-based nonprofit Prevention Institute and sponsored by the Convergence Partnership, was initiated after a Kaiser Permanente-funded study, "Addressing the Intersection," was released in April. The report examined the nexus between neighborhoods with high rates of childhood obesity and those with high rates of violence.
"You can't tell people to go out and be physically active, if they don't feel safe in their communities," communications manager Ann Whidden from the Prevention Institute said. "Kids may end up in front of the television because parents know that's where they're going to be safe."
A community team in Chula Vista has identified six sites to focus the effort—all in the western portion of the city. They include Harborside Park, Lauderbach Park, the neighborhood around the St. Regis apartments and all three trolley stops.
"This particular community is a high-need community," Chula Vista Project Director Dana Richardson said. "Since 2005, we knew there were challenges related to childhood obesity. We also have evidence of disorder, traffic problems and increased violence in those areas."
The Chula Vista team has $80,000 in funding to address specific concerns and to improve the community's perception of safety in those areas.
"The police can't do everything," Richardson said. "What we're trying to do is rally the community behind this."
The project began in January and is slated to be complete in June.
The other five cities participating in the project are Denver, Detroit, Louisville, Oakland and Philadelphia.
Sponsors in the Convergence Partnership funding the project include The California Endowment, Kaiser Permanente, Kresge Foundation, Nemours, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.