Increasing Opportunities for Exercise in Historic South Los Angeles

On February 13th, 2017, Central Avenue Jazz Park in Historic South Central Los Angeles was transformed into an outdoor fitness space with community members and instructors moving through workouts designed to increase cardiovascular capacity, boost energy levels and increase the feeling of wellbeing. For community member Claudia Durango, it was a welcomed event, “This is going to be really good for the community; we just need to continue having people show up.” The new program is part of the rollout of National Health Foundation’s (NHF) BUILD Health LA Initiative Community Action Plan for Historic South Central.

In 2016, NHF’s BUILD Health LA Community Health Liaisons, a group of local high school students and their mentors, surveyed the community to understand residents’ barriers to health. The results of the survey were captured in the Community Action Plan that aims to improve the health of the community through methods that have been identified by the community’s residents and that capitalize on partnerships and the assets available.

Historic South Central Los Angeles is 6 square miles, and is home to roughly 103,000 people. In this community, there are no gyms and there is only 0.4 acres of park space for every 100,000 people. Along with having limited access to open space, this community is considered both a food desert (with few healthy food retail choices) and a food swamp (categorized by a prevalence of unhealthy food outlets). Obesity and diabetes are common in this community, and while physicians recommend healthy eating and exercise, these lifestyle changes are challenging to practice with what is available in the community.

One of the needs the Community Action Plan addresses is for programs to keep residents physically active. Many stated that the classes that were available were too expensive and that the free programs had extensive waitlists of residents eager to join. We learned that these residents want to exercise and they will – if the opportunity is there.

As a result, we partnered with 3WINS Fitness, an innovative program spearheaded by Dr. Loy and Kinesiology students from California State University, Northridge. 3WINS Fitness “adopts” parks in Los Angeles, and sends Kinesiology students to teach community members how to exercise while nurturing a community mentality that leads to friendships, accountability and results!

In addition to 3WINS Fitness, NHF also partnered with California Hospital Medical Center, LA County Department of Public Health, LA City Parks and Recreation, Newton Community Police Station, All People’s Community Center, and A Place Called Home, to launch the fitness program. Classes take place Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at Central Avenue Jazz Park and All People’s Community Center.

Community members are thrilled with this new opportunity and have already built great rapport with the instructors from 3WINS. For NHF, the program represents a new way of delivering health to the community. “By creating an opportunity for the community to express their needs and actively engage in finding solutions to the health barriers they were experiencing, they are bringing about healthy changes from within,” shared NHF CEO Kelly Bruno.

Consistency is always the key with taking on a new behavior, but we are sure that with this new partnership and with the different components of the BUILD Health LA Initiative and Community Action Plan, the residents in Historic South Central Los Angeles will have new opportunities to live a healthier lifestyle.