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San Fernando Pumped Up About Latest White House Honor PDF Print E-mail
Written by Alex Garcia   
Thursday, 28 February 2013 08:03

City and Partner CSUN Win Competition for Anti- Obesity Program

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Just a few months after the City of San Fernando gained national attention when it's Mariachi Masters Apprentice Program (MMAP) was recognized in Washington, D.C. by first lady Michelle Obama, the city is getting ready to receive another White House award on Wednesday, March 6.

The City and its partner, the California State University Northridge (CSUN) Kinesiology Department, are being honored for the creation of "100 Citizens," a health and wellness program that encouraged its residents to exercise, eat healthy, affordable food, and make better health choices. Part of the program included using new outdoor fitness equipment installed at San Fernando Recreation Park.

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Ismael Aguila, operations manager of the San Fernando's Recreation and Community Services Department, and CSUN kinesiology professor Steven Loy will travel to Washington, D.C. next week and be honored at a White House ceremony.

"We're excited to be recognized for a program where we try to deal with the childhood obesity epidemic. This program has really helped people in the city providing a low-cost exercise program," Aguila said. The program recruited 100 local residents of all ages, from kids to senior citizens – some with many pounds to lose – to begin exercising under the guidance of CSUN kinesiology students.

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Together as a group, the residents would meet each morning in the park to work out at one of the two fitness stations in the park featuring 24 pieces of outdoor exercise equipment. They also participated in Zumba dance classes and cycle spinning, and shared their progress.

Jerry Haro of San Fernando, one of the participants, said the program has changed his life.

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"It gave me more endurance. I have been able to maintain (of 185-pounds)," Haro said. "I retired from General Motors six years ago, and did not want to gain weight. This program has helped me do that."

Loy and his kinesiology students spent more than a year working with Aguila and his staff to design "100 Citizens," to disprove the misconception that one needed to join a fitness center or be a serious athlete to stay healthy.

"This feels good," said Loy, in a statement released by CSUN. "Our students are getting recognition for a program they have delivered to the community, and it's an opportunity to share a program that can be easily replicated across the country."

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Obama launched a campaign known as "Let's Move!" three years ago to challenge the growing epidemic of childhood obesity in the United States. According to its website, childhood obesity rates in America have tripled over the past three decades, and today nearly one in three children in America are overweight or obese.

The numbers are even higher in African American and Latino communities, where nearly 40 percent of the children are overweight or obese. Ii estimates that, without changes, one third of all children born in 2000 or later will suffer from diabetes at some point in their lives. Many others will face chronic obesity-related health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and asthma.

In a nationwide competition, "Let's Move!" invited groups across the country to submit videos about their programs. More than 61 videos from 21 states were submitted and viewed.

The San Fernando video, "100 Citizens: Role Models for the Future," was created as part of the exercise program. The program won the most popular competition in a nationwide vote.

Last November, Obama announced that MMAP had won the 2012 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program award, and presented the award to the young mariachi musicians in Washington, D.C. MMAP performed for her and an invited audience at the White House.

It is unknown whether the first lady will present this award to Aguila and Loy. "I don't know. They keep those things under wraps pretty well. You kind of find out at the last minute," Aguila said.

Besides the recognition, Aguila said the winning program receives a $1,000 stipend and has plenty of bragging rights. "I think this will give us an opportunity to expand the program. Hopefully, we'll be able to take that ahead and apply it to more grants," he said.

Loy is hoping that the national attention will encourage educators at other universities across the county to recognize that they have tremendous resources on their campuses in their kinesiology students, who can make a difference in the health of the residents of their community.

The kinesiology students can share what they have learned in the classroom about health and wellness, and design fitness programs that meet the needs of the residents in their areas.

"This is not insurmountable," said Loy, who is currently looking for a sponsor to help expand Northridge's program across the CSU system.

"Our program can be replicated and sustained from other universities in the community's public parks. You don't need to be a special institution or a special city. What you do need is to put in some time and effort, meet with the community and listen to what they feel they need, and then work with community leaders to design a program that fits those needs. It can be done. We did it, and we can help others do it too."

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Last Updated on Thursday, 28 February 2013 08:09