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The Oakland DONS’ Present‌ Final Report for

Youth Building Healthy Communities

A y-par project

Oakland, California Fall 2010 A Youth-Led project with Youth Noise, Link Media, and Youth Together Media


YBHC Oakland

Fall 2010

Who are the people creating the change? Where are they?

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We are YBHC (Youth Building Healthy Communities). We are a collective group of

youth from Oakland, California who originated from an organization called Youth Noise. Our main focus for this research project is to bring health and healthy habits back to our community. Through research, we were able to collect data and get concrete answers about the critical health issues existing in Oakland neighborhoods. Our team is youth-led and advised by Lauren Hauser and Aaron Nakai, our adult allies who have helped us along the way. Through this project, we learned what it means to have a healthy body and live healthy lifestyles; we can now go into our communities and take action to promote healthy living with the skills and knowledge we’ve gained. 2


YBHC Oakland

Fall 2010

Our Goal When we first started, we as youth didn’t understand exactly what ‘health’ meant to us. Our goal for this project was to find the reasons why we as a community are generally unhealthy. The first part of the project was to learn about our definition of health in order to get a better grasp on the health issues in Oakland. We see ‘health’ as more than just our physical well being, but our community well being, and having opportunities to feel safe, valued and happy. Next, we went into the streets and found community members who were willing to discuss health topics with us. We figured in order to help our people it is necessary to hear the ideas and thoughts directly from their mouths. Now that we have collected and analyzed the data, our next goal is to develop action plans to promote healthier lifestyles for the people of Oakland.

Our Vision When we first started the project we: watched our family members struggle with obesity and diabetes, saw our peers dealing with severe mental health issues, witnessed racism within our schools, and noticed the lack of preventive health knowledge within our families. After identifying these issues we learned that this is not how people in Oakland should live, we feel our community deserves better. We envision a city where: healthy foods are easily accessible, community members create a strong social support group and invest in youth development, neighborhoods are free from racial violence, and where access to health care and opportunities for success is a right and not a privilege.

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YBHC Oakland

Fall 2010

Methods We began our research project by attending a two-day training on youth-led participatory action research (YPAR). We came together as a group to discuss and map what wasn’t healthy about Oakland and what a better community would look like to us. In-depth discussions and community mapping helped us visualize what a healthy Oakland would look like and how Oaklanders would participate in creating our ideal utopia. From this YPAR training, we learned important concepts and research techniques that would further help us in defining our research goals and vision for Oakland. We felt that YPAR methodology was essential for this research project because we are the people who are being affected by health disparities in Oakland. As low-income youth of color, we see the health problems on the street, at school, and at home, thus, it gives us greater access to community members and resources that outside researchers would not normally have. With the special access we had to community members, we were able to conduct: one on one interviews, surveys, and focus groups with over 100 Oaklanders.

Our Themes We decided, after our community mapping and analyzing our community, the four main topics we would focus on would be: 1. Nutritional Health 2. Health Education 3. Mental Health 4. Cultural Education

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Fall 2010

YBHC Oakland

Our Research Question In our research process, we had to come up with one main question that we would try to answer. Our question was: “How can we develop sustainable youth leaders in Oakland to understand and model preventative health practices, have consciousness of

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their own cultures and be knowledgeable of others?�

Data Analysis

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Once we had gathered our data, we all got together as a group and went through every piece, in order to come up collectively with what we felt were our strongest findings. One process in which we chose our findings was to go through the data and see which pieces of information connected directly back to our research question. If we felt it was strong enough to answer our research question, then we used the data to create our findings. Our findings were refined even more as we continued to analyze which finding would best answer our overall question. When our refining process was over, we put the findings into neatly organized templates and decided what our visions for each finding would be. In addition, we created our recommendations to make sure the finding became an actual plan of action. Here is what we found:

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YBHC Oakland

Fall 2010

Our Findings… Food Justice Finding Most Families of color that answered our survey said they choose to eat fast food versus cooking at home at least once a week.

Sub-Finding Fast food diets are contributing to higher overweight and obesity rates among African American and Latino families in Oakland.

Supporting Data: •

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When asked, ‘How many fast food meals do you and your family eat per week?’ 44.8% of the people we surveyed said they eat fast food 2-6 times a week. “A lot of our people, especially Mexican folks, are eating like, you put grease on top of grease on top of grease with a little piece of meat maybe one veggie, and that’s considered healthy.” –Esteban Cuaya (Student at Chabo College) “You learn your habits at home. Whether their healthy or unhealthy habits, I think a lot of that comes from the house.” -Youth Particpant In Focus Group “I feel like unfortunate, historically it[‘s] a trend that our communities are unhealthy


YBHC Oakland

Fall 2010

therefore we learn an unhealthy way of living. A lot of it also is on television, the different things, and the images that children get fed at an early age. On one hand they look at a commercial that says get your five servings of vegetables a day, and then a Fruitloops commercial comes on, its just difficult.” –Lodgi (Youth Together Staff) •

“Exercising daily and eating healthy food makes you healthy, but getting a hold of healthy food is what the problem is.” –Malakia (Student at Oakland High School) In the 2008-09 school year, 29.1% of 5th and 7th grade students in [Alameda] County were overweight. (California FitnessGram, California Department of Education, 2008-09) Of all 18 school districts in Alameda County, Oakland was ranked 4th, at 36.4%, for having a high percentage of overweight children in 5th and 7th grades. (California FitnessGram, California Department of Education, 2008-09) Statewide, California is home to 14,823 fast-food restaurants and 6,659 convenience stores. By contrast, the state has 3,853 supermarkets and 1,292 produce stands (including farmers markets) (California Center for Public Health Advocacy) Currently, there are no grocery stores in West Oakland (California Center for Public Health Advocacy)

Our Vision When we were going over our results from the surveys, and reviewing our notes from the focus groups we realized that the need for nutritional education, as well as the need for healthier foods and access to them, was going to be one of our strongest findings within the entire project. It is because of this that we collectively decided to come up with a plan of real action. In other words, we want to take extra time in order to make sure that what we need and want on this particular finding will be solid.

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YBHC Oakland

Fall 2010

Recommendations: We have a number of recommendations and projects: •

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We want to learn more about the idea of “Food Justice” in our community, and work with other organizations to dive deeper into what this means. We want to involve more youth in this project. We will apply to a “Just Food” program to try and get additional grant money to complete our project recommendations. In order to give people other alternatives to fast food, we want to turn the vacant lots in Oakland into beautiful gardens and have community members care for the gardens. We feel it would be unrealistic to try and work on all the abandoned spaces, but we can have a few to start off with. We will work with Youth Empowerment School to create a bigger garden in the backyard that will serve as an educational space and a place for young people to gather food. We want our school to have an elective class after school completely dedicated to keeping the garden in top shape. When the garden has a consistent group taking care of it, we will be able to expand it so that we can include a wider variety of vegetables, and be able to use those veggies to make school lunches. In order to have more fresh food options, we will start a youth friendly contest around artistic expression of local gardens. We will ask to claim a specific area for themselves in and around their homes, schools, churches etc, and decorate it any way they want. In Oakland, many of the boys in our neighborhoods decorate their cars with paint, big rims and loudspeakers. There are also projects where young people decorate their bikes. We thought, “How amazing would it be if they took that same creativity and turned it towards their plot of land!” We will have contests monthly to see which plot of land is most creative, and we will give prizes to the winners like new plants, or gardening supplies. We will promote it on the website and work with partners to get it started. We will also try and start a coupon program. In Oakland, people pass out ‘free fast food’ coupons on the street. We thought, why don’t we pass out “free apples’ or other fruits and vegetable cards with cooking recipes instead. We will partner with local gardens to see if they would donate a number of foods, and then more people will know where to find healthier foods.


YBHC Oakland

Fall 2010

Health Education Finding There is a lack of education around primary prevention in schools and in households as well as primary prevention promotion in Oakland.

Sub-Finding Youth and families in Oakland do not understand the levels of prevention, nor do they know where to seek health education to prevent health issues such as, substance abuse and smoking, risk of chronic illness, teen pregnancy and STDs, and obesity.

Supporting Data: •

Although 54.2% of the people surveyed said they do not know what preventative healthcare meant, over 57.3% of the people surveyed believe that by focusing on prevention and preventative healthcare, their community’s health will greatly improve. 82.4% of the people surveyed know someone who currently does not have healthcare coverage. “There needs to be education, especially health education [in our schools] happening.” –Fela Thomas (Director of Youth Center at YES)

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YBHC Oakland

Fall 2010

Our Vision We envision a visible and active health education system in Oakland where people know were to seek services at all levels of prevention. We want people in Oakland to understand the practices of prevention so they can keep themselves and their families healthy. For example, community health education will be emphasized in schools, churches, and other community engagement outlets by developing pamphlets that will educate community members how prevention practices prevent premature death. Additionally, we have a vision that all Oaklanders will have access to affordable health care and no one can be denied services.

Recommendations: In order to make small steps toward our vision, we will provide community members and our peers with resources about how to stay healthy using prevention practices we suggest: •

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Develop a prevention education pamphlet on various health issues, such as smoking, obesity, diabetes, etc. and distribute them in neighborhoods, churches, and mail boxes. Partner with local clinics and other health-related agencies to increase health promotion around safe sex, ATOD prevention, and obesity prevention on the streets of Oakland. Host a health fair at the schools to promote prevention practices around sex, ATOD, and obesity. Start a social network blog or group that discusses preventative health care practices, and sites resources for these practices in the community.


YBHC Oakland

Fall 2010

Mental Health Finding Youth in Oakland believe that discussing mental health issues with their families is not done, leads to conflict, or is not supported in the household.

Sub-Finding Family communication about youth to adult transition subjects is non-existent and/or poses more severe mental health issues or consequences.

Supporting Data: We only added one mental health question to the survey because when we were building the survey, mental health didn’t seem like that big of an issue, but when the people answered the question, and when we spoke with our friends, we realized that the lack of knowledge behind the issue was a problem and needed to see the light of day. This is why we decided that mental health should be one of our findings. •

95% of those surveyed said they would take their mentally stressed family member to a hospital as opposed to dealing with the issue at home.

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YBHC Oakland •

Fall 2010

According to the data, when those surveyed were asked where they would take them if one of their family members was to fall mentally ill, all of them said mental health clinics around the area. Leading us to believe that discussing issues within families is a problem. When asked what he or she would do with a family member who was mentally ill, every person who answered said they would take him or her to a hospital or a mental hospital, and not one single person who answered the question said they would talk to a family member. “ I think we first started focusing on the mental health topic because we realized how hard it was for upset students to talk to other about their problems. There were a lot of fights at school, and we sat down and tried to figure out what the real problem behind the fights were. We decided that the lack of communication between students and their peers or family members regarding their issues was the real reason. The lack of support for these problems was what was causing the fights in the first place.”-Maria You can’t talk to your parents, and sometimes you can’t even talk to your friends about your problems. There needs to be someone you can go to for help before all the anger and stress builds inside you to a point where you can’t even behave correctly around people.”-Maria, Youth Health Ambassador

Our Vision We want to create a peaceful space in the back of school next to nature where we can have discussions. Our ideal dream would be to put these spaces within our community gardens so that we can see our beautiful gardens as we have open discussions about our issues.

Recommendations •

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There will be a group that would meet every week, they would go to the space, and act like a support group for students who felt they needed to talk to someone about their problems. All information talked about would be kept confidential, and


YBHC Oakland

Fall 2010

the students will be able to talk to their peers about solutions to their problems. •

Also, along with the support group, we want to start to implement a conflict resolution team at school. The team would be students who were trained to solve conflicts between other students. We want to be able to get the students to resolve their own problems between each other rather than rely on an adult to solve the conflict.

Cultural Education Finding Racism is causing violence in Oakland schools and neighborhoods.

Sub-Finding There is a lack of cultural education amongst various ethnicities in Oakland schools and neighborhoods. This leads to violence and not feeling safe in our communities.

Supporting Data: •

When those surveyed were asked if they would want to learn more about cultural education, 83.5% said that they would.

When those surveyed were asked if they believed that race matters, over 50% answered saying yes, they believed that race does matter. 13


YBHC Oakland •

Fall 2010

When asked what they felt was an important issue in their community, one survey participant answered, “lack of self knowledge, lack of a sense of the legacy of struggle…” -Eden (Teacher at Eastside Arts Alliance) When asked what they felt was one thing they could do to improve their community, one survey participant answered, “if I had a way to organize something fun, I would take a bunch of people from different communities and put them together, imagine the relationships and the bonds that could be put together.” Anonymous student in Oakland “If you want to know where you came from, you need to go back.” –Janelle (Student at Youth Empowerment School)

Our Vision We envision Oakland schools and neighborhoods will be more informed of other cultures, as well as, celebrate and educate a different culture every month other than African and Xicana history.

Recommendations: In order to increase cultural education in our schools we suggest:

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Having cultural assemblies on multiple cultures and ethnicities other than African and Xicana history.

We will work with partners and our schools in Oakland to advocate for ethnic studies classes to be a part of the curriculum, we will lend support to those organizations.

We will have guest speakers from other cultures who currently experience or have experienced racism and segregation to motivate young people; we will host a series of talks.

Hosting a silent challenge day where students can share a secret in their life with one another without using spoken words. We will devote a day where we will let the students draw or write down one thing they want to anonymously share with other students. They will post what they want to share on a wall for everyone to view. A professional mental health provider will conduct a debriefing.


YBHC Oakland

Fall 2010

We decided after much deliberation, that the easiest way to bring cultural awareness to the community and school would be to include it in the school setting, and have it be a celebration rather than a lecture. We want to have cultural assemblies every month, and invite members from the community to join us as well. Every month will highlight a different culture, and allow everyone to participate with the culture’s native customs, questions, and culture. It will allow them to learn about someone else while learning a little about themselves in the process.

Limitations and Lessons Learned We learned a lot about research, and data collection through this project. We as youth had never come across things like survey monkey before, or how to organize a survey. With the help of our adult allies, we were able to learn how to put together a survey, and also, we were able to learn how to do a successful and professional focus group. We also learned that not all the data you collect in a survey is useful data. We only needed to use the data that connected back to our research question, and in the end, we were able to create some very strong findings from the data. Throughout this research process there were areas where we could have made improvements and methods we could have used differently. For example, we could have widened our target population to a more diverse group of people and use a larger sample size during the surveying process. Also, just being able to reach more people with the surveys we collected would have been useful, because then that would have allowed us to get a greater variety of people, and just more data in general. If we would have 15


YBHC Oakland

Fall 2010

been able to collect the necessary data needed, feel like our findings would have been able to become a little more structurally sound. We felt like trying to put together a great amount of focus groups, was a little stressful, and when we tried, there were always people who had previously confirmed, but then had dropped out last minute, leaving us with no focus group. Also, the time limit of two months that we had to collect the data, and organize it was a little time constraining. If we had more time to gather more data, we would have been able to go through the research and locate some more findings. We also felt having some interviews with liquor store owners, teachers, and policy makers; as well as including more pictures would have been a good thing to include in our final report.

Next Steps and Actions

The Youth Ambassadors will be hosting their Youth Health Summit (YHS) in

December. The YHS will allow them to discuss their findings, and talk about their next steps for the project. We will recruit more young people to be involved in our action plans. We need to choose one or two of our recommendations and create a campaign around some of our main findings. We plan to start to figure our how we can get those goals met, and really start to strategize on how we are going to get funding for the projects we want to implement. We need to figure out how, after the project is done, we could possibly make the Ambassadors a more permanent team, so that they could in return, teach other students about how they got their goals accomplished in this project. We want to become youth health educators and trainers for more youth. 16


YBHC Oakland

Fall 2010

We will be creating our master plan for the next three months or so, figuring out what our next big goals are for the action projects, and more ways to promote our work.

Meet the Oakland DONS... Maria Cuaya Hello! My name is Maria Cuaya, and I’m a senior at Youth Empowerment School! I chose to join this project because I wanted to create change in my community and leave something for the students who go to my school after me. I like to play soccer, and I’m going to play it professionally when I get out of high school! Senior baby! CLASS OF 2011!!!! Bella Montoya What’s up! My name is Bella Montoya, and I’m a Junior at Youth Empowerment School! I wanted to be in Youth Building Healthy Communities because I wanted to create a healthy school for my fellow students. I wanted to be able to have a school with healthy food, and a healthy environment. I just want my school to be a safe healthy place to come to everyday. David Lara Hey People! My name is David Lara, and I’m a Youth Health Ambassador also known as the Oak Town Don’s. I’m a freshman at Youth Empowerment School and I think it’s important to have healthy food at my school. We need healthier foods for lunch and less fighting at school. YBHC lets me work with my friends and make change at our school, that’s why I do it! Yadira Arrevolos Hello! My name is Yadira Arrevolos and I go to Youth Empowerment School. I’m a sophomore, and I joined Youth Building Healthy Communities because I wanted to create healthy changes for my school. I want to start eating healthy in our cafeteria, and I want there to be more cultural education for our students. I like to draw, and I love my family and my boyfriend very much.

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YBHC Oakland

Fall 2010

Alejandro Martinez Hey what’s up! My name is Alejandro Martinez, and I’m a Sophomore at Youth Empowerment School in Oakland, CA. I can be kind of shy, but I love my friends, family and girlfriend very much. When you get to know me, I’m the life of the party. I joined YBHC because I was concerned about cultural education at my school. I wanted to make a change, and that’s why I’m a youth Health Ambassador. Fortino Vasquez What’s up People! My name is Fortino Vasquez and I’m a Senior at Youth Empowerment School! I’m a youth organizer, and have been a youth organizer since my Freshman year of high school, and I will continue on after graduation. I want to go to college at UC Santa Cruz, and I am one of the most ambitious people you will ever meet. I can always bring a smile to any one's face. Mary Tuinauvai Hey everyone! My name is Mary Tuinauvai and I currently attend City College of San Francisco. I am a Dance Major with a Minor in Kinesiology. I am honored to have been apart of YBHC because I feel it is an effective way to have my voice heard as an advocate for social justice for our youth and our communities, local as well as global. As a youth health blogger, I am excited to have the ability to outreach, influence and impact change for the better while attracting an audience who share my concerns. I have been working around social justice issues for two years and have been involved in multiple organizations that focus on specific social justice issues, such as violence prevention and community justice. Jessica Gonzales Hello, my name is Jessica Gonzales, and I’m a sophomore at San Francisco State University. I’ve been organizing since my Junior year of high school, and ever since then it has become a passion. I really love my family and I love to make people laugh. I joined YBHC because I felt that after growing up in the Oakland School District, changes needed to be made to the schools regarding health, and health issues in our community. I had the opportunity to work with the best team and organizer could ever ask for, and the changes that we’re going to bring to our schools are going to go down in history. We are the movement. We are the change. Special thanks to the Kresge Foundations for the financial support for this project!

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Oakland Dons Final Report