Gloria Serra, a volunteer at the UMMA Community Clinic in South Los Angeles, is always giving tips to clients seeking health advice. At the top of her list—exercise. So, on a recent Friday, she put on her walking shoes, visor and sunglasses and joined dozens of other volunteers, residents and healthcare providers for a two-mile walk to celebrate health and fitness.
Although the sun’s intense heat pressed down on them, Serra and the other walkers marched on enthusiastically. Serra says she has seen more interest among clients in talking about the connection between obesity and major health problems. They want help.
“A lot of people are asking about healthier things to eat,” she said. “I tell them not to drink soda and instead to drink water.” She says she has also mastered the art of making “green” juice with kale, spinach and cactus paddles as part of her daily vitamin intake and to cleanse her body.
The organized walk, now in its second year, came after the Board of Supervisors approved a motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas that commends the important service of health centers by proclaiming August 11 thru the 17, National Health Center Week in Los Angeles County. Nearly 100 people participated.
The walk, which began at St. John’s Well Child and Family Center on W. 58th Street and ended at Mt. Carmel Park on 70th , was done in a partnership with the Southside Coalition of Community Health Centers, the Empowerment Congress, UMMA Community Clinic, St. John’s Well Child and Family and L.A. Care.
“This walk exemplifies the importance of exercise and fitness,” said Jim Mangia, CEO of St. John’s. “It also creates a sense of stronger and healthier communities.”
Indeed, many of the participants walked with their children in tow or in strollers. Some, like Amelia Amaro, who brought her 4-year-old daughter Janele, thought it was important to set a good example.
“It feels good to walk,” she said as she sipped on a bottle of cold water. “I walk every morning when I take my son to kindergarten.”
Maria Reyes was visiting the park with her children, Adan,3, and Brian, 1, when she saw the event and decided to visit. While she strolled along, receiving information from healthcare providers about healthcare enrollment, emergency preparedness, reproductive health and blood pressure tests, her sons munched on bananas, watermelon slices and grapes.
“This is great,” she said and then looked down with pride at her two boys. “And they have a great appetite.”