This week, we sat down with PreventObesity.net Leader Deborah Ebrahemi of The Los Angeles Trust for Children’s Health to learn about how she and her organization are making a difference in the lives of California’s children. Read on to learn more about Deborah, and reach out to her via her profile.
Name: Deborah Ebrahemi, MSW
Title: Healthy Eating, Active Living Program Manager
Organization: The Los Angeles Trust for Children’s Health
What inspired you to start working on childhood obesity?
We believe that there is undoubtedly an intersection between student health and student success. Many Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) students who are failing school are doing so due to illnesses such as obesity, asthma and the lack of access to health care services. In a strategic effort to address the health disparities of these students, The Los Angeles Trust for Children’s Health (The L.A.Trust) and LAUSD responded by partnering to build 14 wellness centers on the campuses of high-priority high schools and middle schools across the district. The centers are focused on primary prevention and early intervention for students, their families and community members. The L.A. Trust is dedicated to prevention, health equity and justice for LAUSD students and is determined to battle the social determinants of health by making certain our children will not fall victim to poor health and educational outcomes based on their ZIP codes.
Seeing that obesity is an ever-rising epidemic, Kaiser Permanente partnered with The L.A. Trust for three years of programming focused specifically on promoting and institutionalizing healthy eating and active living programs, policy and environmental practices on the school campus.
How are you helping to reverse childhood obesity?
Through the Kaiser Permanente Healthy School Partnership’s HEAL program (healthy eating, active living), we are establishing programs at Hollywood High School to increase healthy behaviors for students, faculty and parents such as Zumba, nutrition workshops, Type 2 diabetes prevention workshops, organized hikes and other sporting events. Two student health clubs have been successful in advocating for healthier snack options in both the vending machines and the student store, shifting to healthy school fundraising, working with the cafeteria manager to hand out fresh fruits and veggies, bringing a farmers market to school, organizing and implementing physical activity events and nutrition awareness campaigns. A wellness council consisting of students, parents, teachers, administrators, clinicians and community organizers has been fully established at Hollywood High School to advise, plan and implement programs and activities that meet the HEAL objectives. With the collaborative efforts of all partners involved, systemic change is in the works at Hollywood and will undoubtedly be replicated across our other wellness center sites.
What’s your biggest accomplishment so far in helping reduce childhood obesity?
Our key accomplishment is in the development of a wellness council that is principal and lead teacher directed and focused on an integrated strategy to address the needs of our students and their families. In addition, together with external partners and community organizations, we have developed a coordinated response to the obesity problem that exemplifies a true team effort. A prescription for wellness is being instituted so that once identified, a student with a high BMI can be referred directly to the on-campus weight room, after school program or small learning community that teaches them about the importance of healthy eating, engages them in physical exercise and provides a support group of health mentors to ensure they can improve their own health and perhaps even that of their family.
We can record our absolute greatest accomplishment as the immediate impact on the students we work with. Their passion and dedication has inspired their friends and families to join the movement, and now many of them are in turn demonstrating their belief that health can be both fun and deliciously worth it. This inspires me daily!
Who is your role model in your work?
I have many that I take inspiration from, but one that has led my recent work and passion is our executive director, Maryjane Puffer, who is so influential and devoted to the health of our kids. Her visionary leadership and understanding of societal needs has resulted in impactful programs and services for our youth!
What healthy snacks did you enjoy growing up? OR What game or sport did you play growing up?
Growing up, my mom would make sure that my brothers and I were very active. We participated in outdoor league sports seasonally, and I always looked forward to basketball and swim!
Each week, our own Prarthana Gurung speaks with a Leader to get a quick look at why he or she loves working to create healthy environments for kids. Want to take part? Visit Prarthana’s profile and contact her.