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Champions For Change Making Healthy Choices

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By Ashley A. Jones

In May of 2007 the Network for a Healthy California African American campaign launched "Champions for Change," encouraging African American residents of the San Bernardino and Riverside counties to commit to healthy lifestyles.

Astrid Mickens
Astrid Mickens, Dr. coordinates the African American campaign for San Bernardino County. Mickens is a certified Health Education Specialist with a doctorate in Health Education from Loma Linda University. She has served as a Health Education specialist for the County of San Bernardino for one year. She has also served as a speaker for programs such as the Healthy Heritage Wellness Conference.

Dr. Mickens said she realizes the importance of promoting healthy lifestyles. "This program is a new state level campaign from the county which stresses the importance of good eating habits, and regular exercise to reduce sickness and disease," she said.

The program is intended to serve women from the ages of 18-54. Dr. Mickens hopes to gain more participants to join the campaign and get educated about healthy foods, exercise, address community concerns, and get the word out.

Champions for Change offers several resources to help educate the public in living healthy lifestyles. This program includes health information services, recipes and cookbook information, and locations where people can get involved in physical activity.

Dr. Mickens said, "I was influenced to coordinate the campaign because I saw it as being relevant in the community. There are high proportions of African Americans with chronic health disease including diabetes. A lot of people are not getting the recommended amount of healthy foods and exercise."

According to Dr. Mickens, the purpose of the program is to get as many people as possible to start eating better and to encourage women to be good role models for their children, and other family members.

Dr. Mickens said, "The most rewarding part of leading the campaign is working directly with individuals about misinformation. You would be surprised how much misinformation is out there. A lot of the issues concern reading food labels. I help by giving information on how to read food labels and as a result, the individual makes positive changes in their diet."

Another advocate of the "Champions for Change" campaign is Reverend Bronica Martindale, Community Health Leader for the San Bernardino County department of Public Health. Reverend Martindale received her BA degree in Art with a concentration in dance and theatre from Loyola University, Ca.

 She has served as President of the California Gardens Neighborhood Cluster Association, which promotes safety, nutrition, physical activity, family wellness, and beautification. She also served on the Art Commission for San Bernardino. Recently, Assembly member Bill Emerson recognized her as a Woman of Distinction for 2007.

Rev. Bronica Martindale
Reverend Martindale said, " I was motivated to be a Community Heath Leader from my previous experience working with Families of African Americans Ancestry Manifesting our Excellence (FAME). This program infused nutrition and physical education as well as combined art and nutrition."

Reverend Martindale encourages individuals to make healthy choices by using art. She teaches classes on African American dance, praise dance, visual arts with fruits, and poetry. She said by participating in the dance activities and art activities women don't even realize that they are working towards a healthier lifestyle.

She said, "We want to empower African American women to make healthy choices. We want to show them healthy living is not complicated but easy to obtain. We want them to feel good about themselves and to put physical activity in their daily lives as well as their families lives."

Reverend Martindale concluded by saying, "We want to inspire hope into our community. We want individuals to move towards their dreams and visions.

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