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Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit Grant Recipient and Health Activist Rosa Soto Featured in Food, Inc. Documentary Film
Date:6/12/2009

A Profile of a Leader at the California Center for Public Health Advocacy

LOS ANGELES, June 12 /PRNewswire/ -- When the producers of the new documentary Food, Inc. contacted Rosa Soto, 33, to talk about the relationship between the food industry and public health, they came to the right place.

Soto's passion for health activism stems from both professional and personal experience. She is regional director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy in Los Angeles, and worked with youth health programs and for state elected officials prior to joining the organization in 1999.

Ultimately, Soto's passion for the topic came from the personal, not the political. Seeing her grandfather lose both of his legs to diabetes and hearing similar stories from other relatives, neighbors and friends, Soto realized that conditions in her community were leading to high rates of chronic disease. She felt an urgency to start changing these environmental conditions.

In her current role, Soto influences local and state policy by supporting localized grassroots advocacy efforts. In 2000, Soto and her team engaged the youth of Baldwin Park, Calif., in a summit on teen health. Two hundred teens met with policy makers to brainstorm programs and environmental changes focused on "making the healthy choice the easy choice." Most of the ideas generated at the summit are now a reality within the community: the opening of a healthy teen center featuring a rock climbing wall and skate park; conducting walk audits and making the community more pedestrian friendly; and helping corner stores highlight healthy options.

Within a year after the Los Angeles Unified School District's childhood obesity prevention initiative was put into effect ("when the second-largest school district in the nation makes a change like that," said Soto, "policy makers take notice") and California approved the first-ever healthy vending policy, Baldwin Park became the first California city to adopt its own snack food policy. The city is now the model for change, and Soto's team now wants to replicate that success in other communities.

Soto's nonprofit agency is funded in part by a grant from Kaiser Permanente as a community health initiative. "More importantly, Kaiser Permanente goes beyond funds and grants to create a model healthy hospital setting at Baldwin Park," Soto said. "Its support helps build capacity for health prevention in our community."

If Soto ever should doubt the importance of her work, she needn't look far to find living, breathing proof that what she does matters. Several years ago, a student named Belinda Campos was struggling with her weight and became involved in Soto's advocacy group. After working with Soto and the Kaiser Permanente outreach therapists and advocating for food policy changes in her school district, she took on her personal challenge and lost 80 pounds. Campos continued as an intern with the organization, graduated from college and today works alongside Soto.

Soto calls her experience working with the producers of Food, Inc. a natural partnership.

"The film explores our current situation in terms of food - how we got here and the ramifications of where we are today," she said. "We all agreed that it's about more than that. It's about what must happen to improve the situation, but more importantly it's about what we - each of us - can do when we work together to effect real change."

Food, Inc. opens in select theatres today in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City. For more information, visit www.foodincmovie.com.

About Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America's leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, our mission is to provide high-quality, affordable health care services to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve 8.6 million members in nine states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health. For more information, go to: www.kp.org/newscenter.


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