By Carol Rosen, Correspondent
The Mercury News
Discussions at the Jan. 16 meeting included a question-and-answer period with five San Jose mayoral candidates, and a speech by Julie Gerberding, current president of Merck Vaccines and former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for seven years. Breakout sessions ended the trust’s launch.
The Health Trust’s initiatives focus on three major health areas: eating, living and aging strategies. Its healthy living goal will provide the services and connections necessary to enjoy the healthiest lives possible. Solutions include:
• Preventing, managing chronic diseases through workshops at at-risk communities
• Providing oral health services and education
• Resource centers for information
• Enrolling families in county health care operations
• Reducing homeless populations and encouraging rent subsidies
The trust hopes to upgrade quantities of healthy food throughout the county offering all residents’ access to consume affordable, quality, nutritious food. Its strategies include:
• Expanding and increasing small certified farmers markets
• Working with small groceries and corner stores to increase fresh produce stock
• Developing food access for all, emphasizing older adults and the homeless
• Finding space for people to grow their own produce
• Using the Silicon Valley Health Corps to grow and distribute food to low income families
• Healthier school lunches and beverages
• Developing media features promoting healthy food access and health information
• USDA funded nutrition education.
Healthy aging strategies will provide older adults in Santa Clara County with integrated access to services and supports in settings most appropriate to their needs. These include:
• Strengthening neighborhood networks with wellness hubs
• Engaging older adult residents to build models for networks
• Creating standardized services and impact measures for community and senior centers and these hubs
• Integrating and reforming systems by education for long- term services
• Developing a statewide stakeholder network to transform the long- term care system
• Linking seniors and their families to services and resources.
To reach these ambitious goals within five years, especially with Silicon Valley’s extreme socioeconomic disparities, Gerberding said it’s necessary to connect with people who have the greatest need, whether it’s for fresh and healthy food, transportation, agriculture, parkland for sports or fitness use or school-based education and nutrition. She added that parents, faith-based groups, nonprofits and for-profit employers should work toward these goals harmonized through the government.
A special session included five candidates for San Jose mayor: County Supervisor Dave Cortese; San Jose Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen and council members Sam Liccardo, Rose Herrera and Pierluigi Oliverio.
Candidates were asked to describe their No. 1 priority for the city. Cortese wants to restore public safety. Nguyen agreed but added that she also wants health and safety for every child and adult in the city. Liccardo said that he hopes to make San Jose a city where every child gets some kind of activity with access to free or minimal fees to engage in some kind of sport.
Herrera, acknowledging that she struggles with her weight, said that she hopes to make San Jose one of the top 10 cities with a healthy population allowing every child to have healthy food. Oliverio suggested that closing or converting liquor stores would allow more grocery stores, with fresh produce, to open. Too often, he said, grocery stores won’t open because nearby liquor stores reduce their profits.
Expanding capacity at community and senior centers requires improved transportation, improved senior meals and economic circumstances, said Cortese.
Liccardo suggested senior meals should be cooked at the site to provide ethnic preferences and fresh food.
Herrera called San Jose’s homeless problem a regional issue, stating that all regional governments should work on the problem. Oliverio thinks there is a lot that can be done, but nearby cities and the county need to help, too. Nguyen proposed hiring a community advocate to act as a liaison between the mayor and the community to hear residents’ concerns and needs.