Photo by John Schreiber.
Los Angeles County Administration Building. Photo by John Schreiber.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health was awarded a $14 million federal grant Friday to support efforts to combat obesity, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

The grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will be awarded over four years, and county officials said the funds would be used to help improve residents’ access to clinical and community resources to prevent or control chronic diseases.

Much of the grant will be used for programs that are located in the city of Los Angeles or that benefit Angelenos, county officials said. The funds will likely be directed to programs that bolster people’s ability to adopt healthy habits, such as making healthy food more readily available and improving streets to encourage people to exercise more. The funds could also go toward forming better partnerships between hospitals and health clinics that serve patients at risk for chronic diseases, officials said.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said he hopes to partner with the county to “design and build safe, walkable streets to increase exercise, health and a stronger sense of community.”

He said every Los Angeles neighborhood should have a “great street that makes it easy to walk to school, work and shopping.”

The mayor earlier this year unveiled a list of 15 streets — one for each council district — that will receive improvements under his “Great Streets” initiative.

The “Great Streets” include two segments of Van Nuys Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley, Crenshaw Boulevard in South Los Angeles, Cesar Chavez Avenue in Boyle Heights and Western Avenue in Koreatown.

“We’re very excited with the mayor’s focus on streets and trying to make them vibrant for all users,” said Dr. Paul Simon, director of Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention for the County Public Health Department.

The grant funds will likely go toward developing plans for the Great Streets initiative, Simon said.

He said the grant could also help the Los Angeles Food Policy Council develop a group purchasing plan for neighborhood markets so they can obtain fruits, vegetables and other grocery goods at lower prices.

The grant could also go toward developing nutritional standards for the city’s meal programs for youth and seniors, Simon said.

“The cost of managing chronic diseases is increasing and the burden is falling directly on our local communities,” said Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, the county’s interim public health officer.

“Across the nation, chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes remain leading causes of disability, poor quality of life, high health care costs and death, accounting for 7 of 10 deaths among Americans each year,” he said.

— City News Service

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