I grew up in a thriving Mexican community in a California suburb, playing in our cul-de-sac, participating in the summer lunch program, visiting the library and park. So in 2010, I was surprised to learn that my hometown of Baldwin Park had one of the highest childhood obesity rates in the state.
The city worked with residents on policies promoting health and mobility, including creating safer places to walk, bike and play. Other cities have taken similar steps to make communities stronger, healthier and more equitable for all residents. Such initiatives recognize that the places where we live, work, learn and play have a vital role in our health and well-being.
Everyone deserves to live in a healthy and resilient community with affordable, quality housing, well-paying jobs, access to efficient transportation, safe parks and excellent schools. A healthy community is free from pollution, violence, discrimination and crime. At UnidosUS (formerly the National Council of La Raza), the nation’s largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization, we have worked for nearly 50 years to create opportunities for Latinos and help build stronger communities for a stronger America.
We have seen Latino parents, teachers, business owners, community health workers, neighbors and local leaders come together to create programs that help families build a better future. Community-based organizations in Latino neighborhoods, for example, offer classes in nutrition, host community gardens and provide food assistance. At the national level, Latino organizations advocate for policies such as the Affordable Care Act, which has brought health insurance to more than four million Hispanic adults and more than 600,000 Hispanic children since 2013. The driving forces behind this progress are the millions of Latinos who work hard and contribute to this great nation every day.
The Latino community recognizes that where there’s unity, there’s strength and where there’s strength, there’s power. Health and prosperity go hand-in-hand so it must be a priority for us all to make healthy choices for ourselves and our families. We all have it within us to be engaged and work together to expand where health happens in our communities. ¡Adelante!
Rita Carreón, Deputy Vice President, Institute for Hispanic Health, UnidosUS, [email protected]