Bishop has joined the statewide HEAL movement in an effort to raise awareness about obesity and combat the epidemic with fun, family-friendly activities and policies.
Through HEAL, the Healthy Eating and Active Living campaign, cities all across California have been working together to share ideas about how to promote healthier communities.
Locally, Team Inyo, consisting of representatives from several agencies that include Inyo County Health and Human Services, First 5, Toiyabe Indian Health Project, the City of Bishop and Healthy Communities of Southern Inyo County, among others, has been meeting quarterly for the past three years to reinvent programs like the city-sponsored Easter egg hunt and the popular Trunk-or-Treat Halloween programs in Bishop City Park to promote healthier choices for children and their families.
Last week the Bishop City Council approved a resolution making Bishop an official HEAL city.
According to City Recreation Supervisor and Team Inyo member Waylon Cleland, joining the HEAL initiative opens the door for grant opportunities and the organization helping to promote healthy activities the city is already hosting.
“Joining HEAL is a step in acknowledging that we understand that there is an obesity problem,” Cleland said, explaining that, statewide, there are 103 cities that have joined the campaign. “They would like us to do things like pass city ordinances related to youth sports, vending machines and snacks and stuff like that.”
“Cities have powerful planning, economic development, and public relations tools that can be used to attract healthy food to under-served neighborhoods,” the HEAL website, healthycities.org, states. “Cities are putting these tools to use to attract healthy food retail and to support and protect community gardens and farmers’ markets.”
Cleland said Team Inyo has been working to promote healthy lifestyles and activities for about three and a half years. Recently, a HEAL representative traveled to the area to promote the initiative, and found that, thanks to Team Inyo, the area was ahead of the game. “He actually took our model back to Sacramento and now Team Inyo is a model for HEAL City U.S.A.,” Cleland said.
Looking ahead, Cleland said Team Inyo is hoping to harness state grants through the HEAL program to fund advertising for current programs, and offset costs for new events that are on the horizon.
One grant, he explained, could pay for a Crockpot cooking class to educate residents on simple, healthy Crockpot meals. The funding could pay for Crockpots and cookbooks for the class.
HEAL cities also promote healthy lifestyles among city staffers.
“Cities can reduce the burden of employee healthcare costs by helping their employees overcome obesity and overweight – the primary contributors to preventable chronic diseases that account for more than 75 percent of health care expenditures,” the website states. “Some cities have passed resolutions requiring a focus on employee wellness. Others have established Wellness Committees that assess the nutrition and physical activity environment within the workplace, survey employees about their needs and interests, implement programs and recommend policy changes.”
Exactly how the City of Bishop moves forward with its HEAL programs and how Team Inyo takes advantage of the opportunities membership provides will be up to community members.
Cleland said the next Team Inyo meeting is scheduled for noon on Tuesday, March 11 at Bishop City Hall. All Team Inyo members and prospective members are invited to attend to discuss ideas on how to promote healthy lifestyles in Inyo County.