The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently released the annual health statistics for California and San Joaquin County ranked 46th out of 57 counties.

According to the rankings, San Joaquin County’s rates for obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes are among the highest in the state.

In California, adult obesity afflicts 23 percent of the population, however the rates is 28 percent in San Joaquin County, which puts more adults at risk of developing diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

Life expectancy, quality of life, health behaviors and socioeconomic factors are used to determine the rankings. The rankings spotlight the correlation between the socioeconomic demographics and the health behaviors of the inhabitants of the respective counties and regions in the state.

In an article titled “The Messy Relationship Between Food Stamps and Health,” in The Atlantic, Cindy Leung, a nutrition researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, found teen and adult food-stamp recipients had higher levels of obesity than people who aren’t in the program.

According to Leung’s work more than a quarter of children in California live in households that currently receive food stamps, which puts those kids at a higher risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, and developing unhealthy eating habits.

In 2010, 31 percent of adults in San Joaquin County were classified as obese, a record high. Since then, programs such as the Roots of Readiness Home Visitation Initiative have been employed by First 5 San Joaquin and other similar organizations to tackle the issue.

“The program teaches parents healthy eating habits and how to pass on those habits to their children,” said Lani Schiff-Ross, the executive director of First 5 San Joaquin

The program also emphasizes the importance of health screenings and regular visits to the doctor in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

“A lot of having good health is knowing about it,” Schiff-Ross said. “We are currently working to get more Denti-Cal doctors on partnerships because overall health is important and oral health is crucial to heart health,” Ross said.

First 5 San Joaquin also offers programs to mothers receiving WIC benefits and shopping guides, which offer the mothers information about nutritious benefits available with the program.

Sourcing the information and making it available to parents is an essential aspect of changing the health of the community.

At the Community Partnership for Families of San Joaquin, they offer health program initiatives similar to First 5 San Joaquin that are aimed at teaching parents healthy habits that they can pass onto their children.

“We have a partnership with CalFresh that we offer every Friday where people can pick up information and learn how to use their benefits,” said Alexandra Navarro, the service integration coordinator at Community Partnership for Families of San Joaquin

The programs that exist currently are aimed at providing informative materials that will instill healthier lifestyles for children and change their current dietary practices and standard of health.

Focusing on health is a critical element to lowering the higher disease rates in the county.

“The emphasis we put on health for low-income families is stressed in our parenting classes which allows parents to learn the medical programs and benefits available to them through our partnership with Medi-Cal and Denti-Cal,” Navarro said.

Ross knows that good health leads to better cognitive and behavioral development, and stresses the important role parents play in instilling healthy habits in their children.

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