The San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative (COI) works to reduce and prevent childhood obesity through advocacy, education, and policy development. A number of initiatives dedicated to creating healthy environments for children and families fall under COI’s umbrella, including the Youth Engagement & Action for Health (YEAH!) program. Through this program, youth are trained on how to plan and implement projects that result in policy and environmental changes. Participating youth conduct community needs assessments to determine where change is most needed in order to support healthy eating and physical activity, then work with community stakeholders to develop action plans and implement and advocate for changes across community schools, businesses, and organizations. Examples of their work include establishing water stations throughout a school where they were not previously available, installing lighting outside of a recreation center to making biking safer, and creating female-only physical activities making options accessible to young Muslim females. COI evaluates program impacts by measuring clinical outcomes in addition to changes in environment, policy, and behavior. To date, the YEAH! program has helped 21 communities improve neighborhood walkability, implement physical activity programs, and increase access to healthy food and beverages.
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