LA County gets $32 million to promote health, fight obesity and tobacco use

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has received $32.1 million to promote physical activity and educate the public about obesity problems and to reduce tobacco use.

Long Beach’s Department of Health and Human Services - the Health Department - should receive over a two-year period, about $1 million of the new federal stimulus funding, Ron Arias, director of the agency, said Tuesday.

The revenue awards are part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Communities Putting Prevention to Work initiative, a comprehensive prevention and wellness effort funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Nationally, Los Angeles County is one of only seven areas to receive funding in both the Physical Activity and the Tobacco Prevention categories.

The Health Department will utilize the funds for two programs: Project CLEAR (Community Leadership Education Action and Renewal); and a Physical Activity/Obesity Prevention Project that will advocate healthy food and beverage choices through the promotion of healthier food policies, as well as to promote bike friendly business districts.

Arias said that obesity problems continue to grow.

In 1997, for instance, the Los Angeles County obesity rate was 14 percent of the population, the director said. That rate increased to 22.2 percent 10 years later, he added.

Among school children - 5th to 9th grades - the rates are higher: 19 percent of the population in 1999, mushrooming to 23.1 percent in 2008, Arias said, adding that cutbacks in school physical education programs are aggravating the problem.

“Chronic diseases can be prevented,” said Arias. “A public health intervention is the most effective way to prevent diseases such as diabetes, heart and lung disease, and cancer.”

By Joe Segura, Staff Writer
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