In an effort to promote careers in the health industry and improve the quality of health in the region, the Community Health Foundation of San Joaquin County recently gave away $177,000 in grant funding.

The Lodi Unified School District, Adventist Health Lodi Memorial, G.O.T. Kids Foundation and Lodi Memorial Hospital Foundation received $50,000 for their Fit Life Impact Program.

The four organizations have partnered together to focus on developing a comprehensive program that targets elementary school students residing in Lodi’s Heritage District. The main objectives are to instill a fit and active lifestyle, reduce life-threatening obesity and bring awareness to health care-related careers.

“I’m very excited for our community because our hospital has a high priority to improve health in the community,” said Jill Borth, a nurse at Adventist Health Lodi Memorial who helped to put the grant package together.

Lynn Aebi, assistant to the LUSD superintendent and a G.O.T. Kids board member, was also thrilled to secure the grant funding.

“The school district is always trying to work collaboratively with our community partners,” she said. “G.O.T. Kids is involved. We’ve provided over $220,000 worth of learning experiences for Lodi Unified students and this is a program we are putting together to continue that.”

According to Wayne Craig, president and CEO of the Lodi Memorial Foundation, the percentage of residents with diabetes and the number of residents classified as obese in the Heritage District is double that of any other district in Lodi.

Craig added that San Joaquin County has some of the highest rates of diabetes and obesity in the state.

“It’s a dire need in the community to stave off diabetes onset,” Craig said.

The grant will fund after-school programs taught by professional trainers hired and managed by the school district.

The programs will be taught in 12 sessions and will involve between 100 to 400 students and family members. In addition, the program will offer nutrition education which will be taught by the school district dietitian and the Adventist Health Lodi Memorial dietitian, and cooking classes may be included.

There will be a health care education class taught by staff at Lodi Memorial Hospital and a career education day in which students will be brought to the hospital to explore careers in health care. The program will begin with a kick-off ceremony and end with a graduation ceremony. Blood pressure and blood glucose screening will be offered to students and their families.

“Our goal is not only to be teaching the children, but also to increase awareness and provide additional resources and information to the parents so that long-term we can see some positive changes in people making healthier lifestyle choices,” Borth said.

Adventist Health Lodi Memorial President Daniel Wolcott agreed.

“As our community’s health provider, it’s our role to focus not only on care inside of the hospital, but on the wellness of the community that we serve. Our partnership with FLIP creates an opportunity for us to help bend the obesity curve and foster career interests in our young people," Wolcott said. "Though this is a pilot program, our goal is to expand this program to every local school.”

In other grant funding, the San Joaquin Health Sector Partnership received $12,000 and according to Lita Wallach, project manager for the partnership, Health Plan of San Joaquin has matched that.

"The goal of the partnership is to provide career pathways into health care jobs for people in our region,” Wolcott said. “Today, health care organizations like Adventist Health Lodi Memorial have openings for relatively high-paying jobs that go unfilled because we do not have qualified applicants.”

The funding will be used to officially launch the partnership, which includes hospitals with a presence in San Joaquin County, regional health care providers and the education sector, including San Joaquin Delta College.

We want to do more work with education to provide opportunities for students at many levels to enter into health care fields that are in the most demanding in the area,” Wallach said.

Other grant recipients included the University of the Pacific ($50,000) for the creation of an endowed scholarship at the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences; Stockton Unified School District’s Health Careers Academy ($50,000) to fund a full-time, work-based learning coordinator to support internship programs that help prepare students for careers in the health care field; and the San Joaquin Medical Society ($15,000) to support Decision Medicine, a program that connects high-achieving, high school students with physicians through personal mentoring opportunities and site visits.

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