SONOMA COUNTY – The Health Action 2020 Vision action plan, developed in 2008 as a long-term guide for improving community health and health care in Sonoma County, is achieving several of its 10 goals through short-term strategies.

Developed by Health Action with input from community task forces and groups, initial priorities for action identify community strategies that can be implemented from 2009 to 2012 that support healthy eating, physical activity and ensure that county residents are connected with a trusted source of prevention-focused primary care.

A number of projects have been launched to promote healthy eating and active lifestyles, including:

iWalk – designed to increase the availability of walking groups and stimulate walking for fun and fitness. There are active walk programs throughout the county, including in Sebastopol, Sonoma and “water-walks” in Petaluma pools.

iGrow – helps people get back in contact with fresh grown food through community and home gardens while also connecting them to ideas, resources and a support network. In less than two years, the number of community gardens in the county has increased from 30 to about 45.

Safe Routes to School – walking or biking to school increases physical activity and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by creating a culture of fitness.

Food System Alliance – brings farmers and producers together with diverse food system stakeholders to increase access to healthy food and viability of local agriculture.

Healthy Students Initiative – provides resources and support in public schools to promote healthy eating and activity. The “Healthy For Life” program offers training, equipment and nutrition education under the direction of Wellness Committees that look at school policy changes to reduce obesity and sedentary lifestyles as a way to improve student health.

“These Health Action initiatives build relationships and serve as a catalyst in the community to bring resources and people together to address these vital issues,” said Ellen Bauer, Ph.D., Health Action Program Manager with the Sonoma County Department of Health Services.

“While our current priority is to promote healthy eating and active living, our 2020 Vision includes other goals that have significant impact on health, including substance abuse, mental health, educational attainment and access to health care,” Dr. Bauer said.

Another Health Action project is a Primary Care Work Group that is working to connect residents with sources of prevention-focused primary care. Primary care can help support healthy eating and physical activity, which will enhance the overall health of a community.

“We recognize the need to increase the primary care capacity in the county and plan to complete a study by the end of the year describing the county’s current capacity. We’ve also launched a patient-centered medical home learning collaborative with nine local primary care practices to enable providers to be more patient- and family-centered,” she said.

For many people in Sonoma County, the basic conditions that support health and well-being seem to be out of reach, including affordable healthy foods, opportunities for physical activity and access to health care services that contribute to preventable illness and death each year.

The Health Action 2020 Vision is working to change that.  Health Action envisions a Sonoma County that is the healthiest place to live, work and play – a place where people thrive and achieve their life potential.