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San Joaquin Valley

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The people of Stockton and surrounding San Joaquin County, Calif., almost 700,000 strong, continue to experience among the worst health outcomes by any measure both statewide and nationally. I've chronicled this situation for the past eight years. At times I've been able to include proposals for change that some very dedicated community professionals have put forward. But little has changed. If anything, the county finds itself in more serious decline than ever before.

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It was a beautiful early spring day yesterday, so I visited the school farm stand at John Burroughs Elementary School.

At the farm stand, which is open every Wednesday afternoon, two women filled bags with fresh apples, oranges, and “snack packs” of locally harvested nuts and dried fruit. The women asked when the farm stand would start selling vegetables again.

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Gabriela Martinez and Susana Cruz summed up the some of the reasons there is an obesity crisis among the Latino community in the San Joaquín Valley.

Martínez, an immigrant from Colima, México and the mother of three children, said she has made a serious effort to improve her family's healthy. She has stopped buying her children snacks at the liquor stores that populate her Fresno neighborhood, and she now places a greater emphasis on playing outside with her kids, though she wishes her neighborhood offered more safe areas to ride bikes and play outdoors.

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Lindsay K. Mann is CEO of Kaweah Delta Health Care District, a group of health care centers in the San Joaquin Valley. Kaweah Delta Health Care District provides a full spectrum of health care services on four campuses, including the largest acute care hospital in Tulare County, Kaweah Delta Hospital. Kaweah Delta Health Care District also operates Cypress Rehabilitation Center, Cypress Mental Health Center, The Lifestyle Center, Community Health Center and San Juan Health Center. Finally, Kaweah Delta maintains partnerships with Cypress Surgery Center and Quail Park Retirement Village.

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Dr. Katherine A. Flores is director of the Latino Center for Medical Education and Research Center, a unit of the UCSF Fresno Medical Education Program. The center is intended to address the serious shortage of Latino physicians and other health care professionals in the area by guiding individuals to become health care professionals who ultimately return to the San Joaquin Valley and provide culturally competent health care services to the medically underserved.

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The Relational Culture Institute (RCI), also known as Unstrung Bow Spiritual Retreat and Compassionate Mission Ministries, is dedicated to developing grassroots leaders and voluntary associations in underserved communities in the San Joaquin Valley. RCI helps these leaders and associations link with regional networks and strategic partnerships in order to increase the overall quality of life for families and neighborhoods throughout the region.

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Dr. Bonnie Bade is a medical anthropologist whose work focuses on farm worker health, health care, California agriculture and farm labor, transnational migration, and ethnomedicine and ethnobotany among peoples of both indigenous Oaxaca and indigenous Southern California. Dr. Bade has worked with Mixtec communities in California, the San Diego/Tijuana border region, the San Joaquin Valley, and Oaxaca for over 15 years. Dr. Bade earned her Ph.D. in anthropology at the University of California, Riverside in 1994.

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Dr. Alvarado is an associate adjunct professor with the UCSF-Fresno Department of Family and Community Medicine. He recently retired from California State University, Fresno. His research focused on undocumented workers in the San Joaquin Valley, Hispanic elderly residents, immigrant agricultural workers and other topics. He currently serves as a consultant in areas of health care, education and farm workers/agriculture. He holds a Ph.D. in social work.

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