“It is unreasonable to expect that people will change their behavior when so many forces within the social, cultural, and physical environment conspire against such change”
— Institute of Medicine
This oft used quote is the rallying cry of many health advocates who are working to improve the environments of low-income minorities. It was used in a presentation by my colleague to motivate parents interested in advocating for their community to fight childhood obesity.
She shared it at a monthly convening of First 5 Regional Parents Group in San Pablo, California. Funded via revenue from a tax on cigarettes (Proposition 10) First 5 California provides healthcare, school readiness, child development, and support programs for families of young children.
First 5 in Contra Costa uses part of their funding to support Parent Regional Groups. To tell you more about the groups I will steal a passage that I had previously written on the ‘company‘ blog…
First 5′s Regional Parent Education Group is one such program that teaches participants valuable skills in community leadership and advocacy. As part of the program, First 5 staff train parent volunteers in project management, leadership, community engagement and public speaking. Currently, 150 Contra Costa parents are involved in the program, many of them low-income residents and half of them speak Spanish as their primary language.
One of the group’s projects is to provide low-cost physical activity classes for young children aged 0-5. They recognized that one of the barriers to young children getting exercise is that many families live in neighborhoods that lacked clean and safe places for kids to play and learn about different forms of activity, like sports.
After doing independent research and surveys, parent group participants found that there was a need for affordable programs for young children to engage in physical activity. They went to the city of Richmond and San Pablo and advocated for classes for their community. They were successful!
This year all of the Fall 2011 classes — Soccer, Karate, World Dance and Gymnastics — are currently full! Students also receive a goodie bag filled with nutrition and physical activity tips that parents can use at home. 🙂
When asked what advocacy means to them parents shared “the ability to speak for others” “to have power” “to fight for my children”, “to have a voice”.
A major problem within low-income minority groups is the history of disenfranchisement and lack of empowerment. Many feel that they do not have the right to protest when fast food restaurants invade their communities or fight for clean parks and safe streets.
The First 5 Parent Group in San Pablo says otherwise. When I attended their meeting on Wednesday night, I was inspired by the earnestness, dedication and energy of the parents working to make a difference. I wanted to bottle it up and take it with me!
So tell me dear reader..what example do you have of extraordinary people fighting to change their community for the better? Are you doing something to make your neighborhood safe and healthy? Sharing is caring!