Mountain View, Calif. -- Every March communities across the country celebrate National Nutrition Month, an annual awareness campaign that educates the public about the importance eating well plays in a person’s overall health.
During the past year, the El Camino Healthcare District and El Camino Health provided nearly $1 million in grants to community partners working to improve nutrition through education, coaching and supportive lifestyle changes aimed at helping people improve their eating habits.
“We are deeply thankful for this support,” said Koy Hardy, education and engagement program director of Fresh Approach, which works to make nourishing food more accessible in the Bay Area and beyond. “The district has been a longtime treasured partner of Fresh Approach.”
An estimated 6,800 Santa Clara County residents benefitted from programs funded by the health district. In addition to Fresh Approach, additional grantees included the Chinese Health Initiative, South Asian Heart Center and others.
“We greatly depend on this grant money and would not be able to provide such a valuable service without it,” said Ashish Mathur, co-founder and executive director of South Asian Heart Center, which focuses on reducing cardiovascular disease and diabetes through screening, coaching and research.
All combined, the El Camino Healthcare District awarded more than $912,500 in nutrition-related grants in fiscal 2023, ranging from $60,000 to $300,000. In addition, El Camino Health contributed another $70,000 to these programs, bringing the total to $982,500.
“This is a very important funding source for the Chinese Health Initiative,” said Jean Yu, program manager for the Chinese Health Initiative, which offers programs that promote awareness and prevention of health conditions that affect the Chinese population. “Because of this funding we’re able to offer a Chinese version of a diabetes prevention program that follows the CDC model, and we’re seeing the benefits in our community.”
In Santa Clara County, an estimated 34 percent of adults are either diabetic or pre-diabetic, 30 percent struggle with high blood pressure and 20 percent have been diagnosed as obese.
“The increase in diabetes and obesity is a real cause for concern,” said Julia Miller, chair of the El Camino Healthcare District Board. “We need to inform and educate members of our community so that they are armed with information that will help them to change their behavior. We’re pleased to support programs that show success in achieving better health outcomes for our community."
Experts agree that there is often a link between nutrition and a broader set of skills that lead to a healthier life.
“A myriad of factors – nutritional knowledge base, genetics, income insecurity and lifestyle choices – often play a part in a person’s ability to prioritize nutrition as part of their overall health,” said Carol A. Somersille, M.D., El Camino Healthcare District board member. “We want to support programs that provide the knowledge and tools to foster excellent health and wellness.”
And the investment is already showing success. At the Chinese Health Initiative alone, two out of three participants in a four month diabetes prevention class were able to reduce their glucose rates, which signals an improvement in their diets.
“In the past, the perception was that Asians are not at high risk for diabetes, which was proven wrong by a National Institutes of Health study in 2012,” Yu said. “This grant funding has been instrumental in helping us develop a culturally competent way to talk to our population about their health risks that they might not be aware of.”
The El Camino Hospital District was established by voter approval in 1956 in accordance with California Local Hospital District Law. The purpose of the district is to establish, maintain and operate or provide assistance in the operation of health facilities and other health care services, provider groups and organizations that are necessary for the maintenance of good physical and mental health in the communities served by the district. The district, now known as El Camino Healthcare District, encompasses most of Mountain View, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills; a large portion of Sunnyvale, and small sections of Cupertino, Santa Clara, and Palo Alto. The publicly elected El Camino Healthcare District Board of Directors approves tax dollar expenditures, including expenditures for the award-winning Community Benefit program. Community Benefit funds are granted each year to local nonprofits, schools and government programs that provide critical health services to the underserved. All District Board meetings are publicly noticed, open to the public, and available for viewing on the district website.