by Robert A. Wilkins, CEO and President of the YMCA of the East Bay

Emerson once said, “The first wealth is health.” I could not agree with him more. But if you look at stark numbers, in Emerson’s eyes, we would now be far from being a wealthy nation.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of American children and young adults between the ages of two and 19 are obese, and sadly, over one-third of America’s adult population is also obese. Each year, more than 13,000 children are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, while adults with diabetes now make up almost one tenth of our population. These stark numbers are rising. We must all get healthy – fast!

The starting place is with our kids. A recent national Y initiative, Healthy Kids Day, drew over 1,200 participants at our Oakland, Fremont and Richmond locations. The day’s festivities introduced them to an array of YMCA programs, community partners, and tools for teaching healthy behaviors and ways to play: essential lessons for learning how to take care of themselves throughout their lifetime.

Festivities included various runs/walks, sports, rock climbing, health fairs and more. Our community partners, Oakland Children’s Hospital, The Oakland Museum, East Bay Regional Parks, Kaiser Permanente, Fresh Approach, Brookside/Lifelong Community Health, Master Gardner, Fremont Healthy Start Initiative, Tri-City Health, Fremont Fire Department, and East Bay Agency for Children among others, played a big role in helping us deliver strong wellness educational models to all of our participants.

But Healthy Kids Day is just one day. It is the Y’s goal to use our various programs to promote health and well-being throughout the year, and with additional ongoing initiatives that appeal to members looking for help in becoming healthier: folks like Letty Scott and Mary Rose Keys.

While Letty is glad she was able to lose 40 pounds by enrolling in our program at Hilltop Family YMCA in Richmond, she’s really excited about being on the path to becoming healthier. “My friends and family have noticed the change in me, and I have had the opportunity to share with them all that I have learned. The Y gave me the place and the encouragement to begin my journey, and the staff have been a tremendous support as I reach for my goal of being a healthier person,” says Letty.

Mary Rose was so concerned about her potential for getting diabetes that she enrolled in the Downtown Oakland Y’s Diabetes Prevention Program. “Since I’ve been attending the program,” she says, “I maintain the focus on not just losing weight but truly learning what and how to eat for a much healthier life.”

Not just a healthier life, but we hope a longer life, filled with a wealth of positive experiences too.

Robert A. Wilkins has been CEO and President of the YMCA of the East Bay since 1997. He is an ordained minister and adjunct professor of Functional Theology at the American Baptist Seminary of the West in Berkeley.

Editor’s Note: This piece reflects an individual opinion and is not a reported story from Oakland Local. Oakland Local invites community residents to share their views about events and issues in Oakland.
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