You’re invited: Help me celebrate Harvesting Health’s 2nd birthday!

Can you believe it has already been two years?

In June 2010, I launched Harvesting Health, as part of my community health reporting fellowship at Vida en el Valle. Since then, I have written 117 posts – more than one a week for two years.

Through this blog, readers have:

Now I want to hear from you. What have you enjoyed reading about on Harvesting Health? What would you like to read more about?

In keeping with tradition, I will be celebrating Harvesting Health’s second birthday next Friday, June 8, at 3:30 p.m., at Fresno paletería La Reina de Michoacán.

Come for the fantastic paletas (did somebody say strawberries and cream?) and stay for the informal discussion about community health and environmental justice. It’s on me – especially if you are open to sharing your health and environmental goals, for an upcoming Harvesting Health feature!

RSVP by leaving a note in the comments section below – or by sending me a tweet!

Thanks for supporting community health blogging in the Valley!

Thanks again to everyone who joined me on Friday at La Reina de Michoacán to celebrate Harvesting Health’s first birthday!

Here are some highlights of the event:

BEST CONVERSATION: Someone asked me why I would celebrate a health blog’s birthday at a popsicle and ice cream shop. Here were my answers:

  1. It’s other social, environmental, and economic factors – and not a celebratory paleta –  that are causing the obesity and diabetes epidemics in the San Joaquín Valley.
  2. These paletas are made from 100 percent fresh fruit! In a 2009 interview, the owner of La Reina told me he goes to México every two years to buy about 30,000 pounds of fruit directly from orchards.
  3. Buy local!

MOST POPULAR FLAVOR: Strawberries and cream seemed to be the most popular flavor among Harvesting Health’s friends. Just viewing this picture by James Collier, of the website TasteFresno and blog Foie Gras and Flannel, convinces me to try it on my next visit.

MOST MEANINGFUL MOMENT: I was excited that so many friends joined me at La Reina. But I was particularly moved to see that two women came from a community an hour away in order to celebrate with a paleta. As they were leaving, they told me, “Rebecca, you come to all of our events, so we thought we would come to one of yours.”

Didn’t make it to the fiesta? Hopefully we can meet for a paleta soon – it’s going to be a long, hot summer here in the San Joaquín Valley!

Special thanks to James Collier for the great photos.

Welcome to Harvesting Health!

Hi, and welcome to Vida en el Valle’s new community health blog, Harvesting Health/Cosechando Salud.

This blog is part of a new reporting project, funded by the California Endowment, that will allow Vida en el Valle to spend a year zeroing in on critical health issues that are impacting Latino communities across the San Joaquín Valley.

In stories in our paper, readers will meet the Valley residents affected by community health issues — like exposure to pesticides, access to clean drinking water and healthy air, and the need for safe communities and healthy food. Readers will also meet the community groups advocating for change at the grassroots- and policy-level.

The in-depth stories will also include a public policy perspective: What policies have created these unhealthy situations? What can local or state decison-makers do to fix these problems?

This blog will add even more depth to the stories. Bookmark this page, and check back  often to view videos of Valley residents and community activists, and to learn about health issues as we’re investigating them.

Why is Vida en el Valle dedicating so much time and newsprint toward community health issues?

Because Valley residents are hit on all sides by health and environmental factors, and the poor and people of color are often hit hardest. And because without media attention, conditions like these could persist:

  • The Bakersfield, Visalia-Porterville, Fresno-Madera, Sacramento, and Hanford-Corcoran metropolitan regions rank in the top ten in the American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2010 rankings for most polluted cities by ozone, year-round particulate pollution, and short-term particulate pollution.

According to the association, minorities and lower-income groups are disproportionately affected by illnesses caused by air pollution.

  • In 2006, more than 326,700 Valley residents were served water with levels of contamination over a legal limit, primarily due to bacteria, nitrates, arsenic, and disinfectant byproducts, according to the Visalia-based Community Water Center.

Latino communities are more likely to have contaminated water than non-Latino communities, the center says.

  • The San Joaquín Valley is home to more than 220 diasdvantaged, unincorporated communities. In these communities, where residents rely on the county government for services, people tend to lack the basic features of a safe and healthy environment, like clean water, sewage lines, storm drains, streetlights, and sidewalks, according to the national research and action institute PolicyLink.

And, because as EPA regional director Jared Blumenfeld put it when asked why he has prioritized environmental justice issues in the San Joaquín Valley, “(The Valley) is a part of the world that deserves attention, and hasn’t gotten the attention it requires.”

These community health stories, blogs, and videos won’t be effective without your input. What health issues are you experiencing in your communities? What types of health improvements do you envision for your neighborhood?

Share your thoughts with Vida en el Valle’s community health reporter via e-mail (rplevin@vidaenelvalle.com), by commenting on this blog, www.blogs.vidaenelvalle.com/health, or by following us on Twitter (@HarvestHealth.)

 

To read more about this new project, check out next week’s edition of Vida en el Valle.