Bronx neighborhoods have some of the worst obesity rates in the city, and two lawmakers are sick of it.
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. joined State Senator Gustavo Rivera in launching the Bronx CAN Health Initiative at the Mary Mitchell Family and Youth Center last weekend in hopes of shedding the borough of its fatty reputation.
The CAN Initiative stands for changing attitudes now, and that’s what Rivera hopes to do not only within his 33rd state Senate district, but also to himself. The initiative brings together individuals, health providers, community centers, schools, and civic-minded groups of all kinds to promote the types of behaviors that lead to healthy lifestyles. The goal of the Bronx CAN Health Initiative is to have all the members of our community—young and old alike—build healthier lives, free of ailments like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease.
And it’s not just for Rivera’s constituents. The senator, at 299 lbs., plans to lose 20 lbs. during the 20-week initiative and 40 lbs. over the next 40 weeks.
“This is the before,” Rivera said, pointing to himself. “This is the after,” he said, pointing to the 209 lbs.—in business attire—Diaz.
Community members signed up for the Bronx CAN Health Challenge set their own personal health goals with the assistance of health care providers that were at Mary Mitchell Family and Youth Center to provide support. Goals included losing weight, exercising a certain amount of times a week, quitting smoking, and bringing down cholesterol levels.
Rivera wants to meet his goal by controlling portion size rather than cutting out certain foods completely.
“I’m sick and tired of being last in everything that’s good and first in everything that’s bad,” said Diaz, saying the biggest hurdle stems from family traditions of having big meals and overeating.
Bronxites can continue to sign up for the Bronx CAN Health Challenge online at www.bronxcan.com or by visiting Rivera's offices at 2432 Grand Concourse, Suite 506.
"As a policy maker, I am working to bring healthier options to Bronxites, including green grocery stores, farmers markets and more fresh produce. But there is one thing we all need to take ownership of—including me—and that is our own personal health habits and behavior,” Rivera said.
City doctors know that it will take more than just regular visits to the doctor to solve the borough’s health problems.
"As physicians on the front lines of care in the Bronx, CIR members know from experience that the work we do in the hospitals will be insufficient on risk factors like obesity unless we also try to solve them in our communities,” said Dr. Yusef Williams, a Regional Vice President for New York for the Committee of Interns and Residents/SEIU Healthcare.
“If we don’t change something, 50 percent of the children in this neighborhood will develop diabetes sometime in their lifetime,” said Dr. Jane Bedell, Assistant Commissioner for the Bronx District Public Health Office. "The Northwest Bronx has some of the highest rates of obesity, diabetes, asthma and heart disease both in the Bronx and throughout New York City.”
According to Department of Health statistics, the child obesity rate throughout the 33rd Senate District (Crotona-Tremont, Fordham-Bedford Park, and Kingsbridge-Riverdale) is over two percentage points higher than the city average of 37.