Chronic Disease Prevention

Chronic Disease Prevention
August 13, 2009
Cheryl Boney, Yolo County Health Department Deputy Director Public Health Programs
and Kimberly Bellows, former UC Davis Intern

It is well established that obesity and lack of physical activity contribute to the development of several chronic conditions, including diabetes and heart disease. One of the biggest public health challenges today is how to address this growing health threat. In an effort to tackle the problem in a way that focuses on chronic disease risk at several stages in life, the Yolo County Health Department offers a variety of programs.

The Health Department works with families and parents of young children to help develop healthy eating and activity patterns early in life. The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Supplemental Nutrition program is one which provides families with health education, nutritional information and food vouchers, along with help in setting goals for healthy behavior changes. To establish healthy eating patterns, staff also assist parents in understanding their baby’s cues, including that a baby’s cry doesn’t always mean it is hungry.

One of the department’s most popular programs is GET READY, which focuses on nutrition and literacy in children 0 to 8-years-old. Families and children receive information about a featured nutrition topic, can taste-test food and receive a “food-to-learn” bag. Within GET READY, staff read a nutrition-themed book to the children, which they get to take home. Every month, 350 to 400 families participate in this program. As a result, families incorporate many of the foods they learn about into their diets and read at least 20 minutes more a week with their children.

The Health Department’s Network for a Healthy California program includes a variety of community events and/or activities promoting nutrition and physical activity. The Network provides interactive nutrition education classes, workshops and special events encouraging healthy nutrition, participation in daily physical activity and chronic disease prevention. The interactive approach to healthy modifications has proven to motivate participants to take steps towards better health. The Network is actively involved with school districts serving grades K-12, providing senior, adult education and preschool/child care programs, as well as programs at low-income housing sites, reaching over 12,000 participants each year.

Programs that focus on adults include the Women Who Walk (WWW) program, and its newer offshoot, Men Who Walk, created to encourage residents to experience the benefits of walking, one of the most convenient forms of physical activity. The WWW program links interested residents with existing walking clubs or helps those wishing to start one. Participants receive mapped walks of varied distances, pedometers and team t-shirts. Mapped walks have been created using a “walkability survey” and are available for communities in Woodland, Davis, Esparto and Winters. The program currently has 600 active members and 35 groups throughout Yolo County.

The Health Department also assists in establishing health coalitions throughout the county to address chronic disease issues at a local level. One example is the West Sacramento Health Collaborative. The department provides support for this group of local residents and stakeholders to implement health campaigns focusing on the specific needs of the West Sacramento community.

The Health Department has implemented innovative and comprehensive strategies to address chronic disease prevention on many levels. It would like to call every Yolo County resident to action: to take charge of their own health, take steps towards a healthier lifestyle and to become more involved in the health of their community. For more information regarding these and other Yolo County Health Department programs, contact the department at (530) 666-8645 or visit