Making an Impact: Huntington Park

04/24/2019

Over the course of 20 years, UCLA Health Sound Body Sound Mind has refined its approach to supplementing physical education programs throughout the Los Angeles area. This year, for the first time, our program will move beyond the scope of middle and high schools and includes a citywide initiative for the community of Huntington Park, expanding access to health resources for all residents.

Huntington Park is located in southeastern Los Angeles, with more than 97 percent of the community identifying as Hispanic or Latino. In 2012, the California Center for Public Health Advocacy named Huntington Park the most overweight city in California, with 53 percent of children and adolescents self-identifying as obese or overweight.

UCLA Health Sound Body Sound Mind is working with two community partners to improve the lives of all Huntington Park citizens by focusing on health, fitness and nutrition.

The partnership between UCLA Health Sound Body Sound Mind, Huntington Park Parks and Recreation (HPPR) and Sustainable Economic Enterprises of Los Angeles (SEE-LA) was initiated by a grant from the UniHealth Foundation. The UniHealth Foundation is a non-profit philanthropic organization whose mission is to support activities that significantly improve the health and well-being of individuals and communities.

In 2017, UCLA Health Sound Body Sound Mind provided Henry T. Gage Middle School with a state-of-the-art fitness center. “In our first year working with Gage Middle School, we saw some of the largest increases in student fitness levels ever at SBSM,” says Sound Body Sound Mind executive director Matthew Flesock. “We saw that this community, while lacking in resources, was a vibrant place and a strong candidate for a large-scale community health improvement project.”

Today, UCLA Health Sound Body Sound Mind is back in Huntington Park and eager to make a greater impact. 

In keeping with the UCLA Health SBSM model, the UniHealth grant provides funding for new fitness centers at Chester W. Nimitz Middle School, Huntington Park High School and Linda Esperanza Marquez High School, as well as further improvements to the existing fitness center at Henry T. Gage Middle School. The schools receive a comprehensive curriculum and professional development for physical education teachers. When the new facilities are complete, UCLA Health SBSM will have provided fitness centers to all public, non-charter middle and high schools in Huntington Park. 

The grant also provides funding to outfit two community fitness centers operated by HPPR with state-of-the-art fitness equipment and two parks with outdoor exercise equipment, making fitness resources more accessible to all Huntington Park community members.

The Huntington Park Parks and Recreation Department offers a wide range of recreational classes and activities suitable for all age groups, including sports leagues, youth programs, fitness classes and activities and a weekly farmers’ market. The grant will also provide funding for financially disadvantaged Huntington Park residents to take these classes for free or at a discounted rate. This funding will focus on foster youth and other populations whose access to recreation may be limited by their ability to pay.

Free monthly nutrition and cooking classes will also be offered to residents to encourage healthy eating habits. SEE-LA provides these classes as part of their effort to increase the availability of locally grown, fresh, affordable produce for all Angelenos, and promote the health of low-to-moderate income Los Angeles area residents. Since 1991, SEE-LA has provided services and programs that support healthy food access, affordability and knowledge across Los Angeles through its six operating farmers’ markets and more than 300 nutrition education and cooking classes yearly.

Other HPPR resources include support for an annual city-wide health expo and 5K run, which supports community health and wellness.

Huntington Park Training 1

Teachers from this year’s cohort of schools gather at Linda Esperanza Marquez High School in Huntington Park for a full day of development training on the SBSM curriculum.

Huntington Park Training 2

Each year UCLA Health Sound Body Sound Mind trains physical education teachers in the SBSM curriculum, which includes a nutritional component.