For the past few months the UC Davis Center for Regional Change has partnered with the Pan Valley Institute in an environmental scan that aims to asses the main challenges in the health and well being of children ages 0-8. The scan is composed of a series of community dialogues, interviews, and surveys that are strategically conducted throughout the San Joaquin valley. The scan,-officially called San Joaquin Valley Health Fund Environmental Scan- is funded by the Sierra Health Foundation in order to inform program and policy efforts to strengthen the capacity of communities and organizations. My experience in these community forums has been very rewarding, I have been able to learn about different communities and the differences not only geographically but also culturally, generational, among other demographics in the San Joaquin Valley.
The findings so far have not been surprising, at least not to me, however they are alarming. Among some of the predominant issues are; healthcare access, early childhood education and school readiness. Other issues were community safety, respiratory illnesses and food access. It is definitely concerning to think that these issues have been consistent throughout the Valley in cities such as Stockton, Livingston, Madera, Fresno, Farmersville and across different cultures such as Indian, indigenous Mexican, South East Asian, African American, Cambodian among others. We all have our own view of our ideal community but our reality is all much the same across the valley. I find it ironic our children do not have access to fresh fruits and vegetables given that we supply the rest of the world with their fruits and vegetables. What we do have? the respiratory illnesses; asthma and all other problems caused by the use of pesticides in order to grow the food that we can’t access. Another finding that resonated with me was that land use was identified as an underlying factor that contributes to child health and well-being disparities in the central valley. This is because we are very geographically dispersed throughout, we have a lot of land and its not being used effectively. We have very limited spaces for children to play and feel safe, not enough parks, there is segregation and isolation within our communities and we have poor housing standards. There are many more ways in which the scan combines issues and underlying factors but for my part I feel that the most important part of this scan was to hear people in the community voice their concerns and be proactive about bringing positive change to the San Joaquin Valley.
Personally, the most valuable part of this project so far has been the stories, and witnessing the similarities that connect us all. Hearing non-immigrants worry about undocumented immigrants not having access to services in the community, hearing from care providers that they acknowledge that language is a real issue in our community, hearing that cultural diversity needs to be embraced. Just being able to learn from each person involved has been eye opening and I am very hopeful for the San Joaquin Valley.
The scan is wrapping up the preliminary findings and getting ready to move on to the next phase of concluding the community meetings and assembling all the information gathered for a final report. The findings of this report will be shared back with the broader community and key decision makers.