Nutrition and Healthy Eating at WMMCCF
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Cook Well — Live Better
Hospital President and CEO, Beth Zachary presents Philip R. Doss, MD with an orchid arrangement at the kick-off of the Cook Well—Live Better Program.
R. Philip Doss, MD, member of WMMC’s Medical Staff is one of a growing number of physician’s interested in helping to stem the tide obesity in our community, and of its damaging effects on people’s health. In 2012, Dr. Doss sponsored the initiation of a new nutritional education program called Cook Well -- Live Better. Through a series of highly structured classes and hands on demonstrations, students are taught how to select healthy alternatives to more traditional choices; how to prepare traditional recipes in more healthful ways; and how small changes in diet and lifestyle can reduce weight and better enable them to manage diabetes and the many other chronic conditions that often accompany diabetes.
Healthy Foods Build Strong Communities
It’s no secret that lack of access to exercise and fresh produce is contributing to a diabetes and obesity epidemic in Los Angeles. Almost half of all adults admitted to White Memorial have diabetes, including 80 percent of cardiac surgery patients.
White Memorial is working to change that by providing space and support for a unique community garden in Boyle Heights. Proyecto Jardin, located behind the Plaza I medical office building on land owned by the hospital, is an oasis in the local food desert. It’s a space where families can grow their own food – organically and free of cost – and participate im healthy gardening and exercise classes funded by White Memorial.
Young gardeners display their fresh harvest at Proyecto Jardin - Nutrition Healthy Eating White Memorial Medical Center Charitable Foundation
Compost is used instead of chemical fertilizers, and there’s an emphasis on water conservation. The garden contains 60 fruit trees, a wealth of vegetables and a medicinal herb garden. Mosaics and other art by local artists is scattered throughout.
The garden was created in 2000 through the vision of WMMC Family Practice resident Robert Krochmal, MD and is now operated by the nonprofit Proyecto Jardin. Garden volunteers include two interns from White Memorial’s Workforce Development and Volunteer Program. This program, supported by a generous grant from Bank of America, teaches local youths vital job skills. They gain experience by volunteering.
The garden is an important source of free or low-cost fresh produce for community residents. The hospital’s goal for the garden is to encourage physical activity, provide relief from stress, promote a sense of stewardship for the land and teach participants about sustainable environmental practices like composting and recycling.
“It’s very, very important, especially in areas like Boyle Heights,” said WMMC Bank of America Intern Jocelyn Hernandez. “If you create a healthy community you have a better environment for everyone.”
The Fitness Path at White Memorial
Sara Rubalcava-Beck, Manager, Communications & Marketing; Sharon McCoy, Vice President, Clinical Services; Ruth Pupo, RD, CDE; John Raffoul, Executive Vice President & CFO; Zuska Polishook, Hospital President & CEO, Beth Zachary, David Miranda, former Field Deputy for Los Angeles City Councilman, Jose Huisar, and Al Deininger, former WMMC Vice President for Facilities
Born and raised in Slovakia, successful businesswoman and philanthropist Zuzka Polishook has always been passionate about fitness, food and nutrition. So it was only natural that when she was introduced to White Memorial last year, she immediately connected with the hospital’s Healthy Eating Lifestyle Program (HELP), which teaches healthy eating and activity habits for children with or at risk for diabetes.
Zuzka’s generous donation made possible the White Memorial Fitness Path, a half-mile walking path that is open to the entire community.
Zuzka got started in her career in Prague, the Czech Republic. She moved to New York in 1993 and then to Los Angeles three years later.
Zuzka provided marketing for Fortune 500 companies, including Unilever, Disney and Avery Dennison. In 1999, she began consulting for a variety of internet and e-commerce clients.
She and her husband Phil have also been involved in numerous nonprofit organizations, including the St. Joseph Center, a homeless and family center in Venice, CA; Community Services Unlimited in Los Angeles, which teaches urban farming and promotes the local sale of fresh produce; and the SCORE fund in Los Angeles, which helps youths who have sustained spinal cord injuries while participating in sports or athletics.
“I’m a huge believer in making opportunities available to people,” Zuzka said.
Zuzka and Phil live in Pacific Palisades and are dedicated to their two daughters, Mira, 11 and Nina, 8.
Her dream is to see the White Memorial Fitness Path become a gateway to fitness for the community.
“Nothing would make me happier than to see people walking and doing something healthy for their bodies.”
The Healthy Eating a Lifestyle Program (HELP)
The Healthy Eating and Lifestyle Program (HELP) Is a pediatric obesity management project designed to help children and their families adopt a new, healthier eating style and increase physical activity habits. HELP emphasizes long-term lifestyle changes, rather than short-term diets. As a result of these lifestyle changes, participants are expected to make healthier food choices, integrate exercise Into their everyday activities, watch less television and reduce their weight and percentage body fat. Clinical data is collected and reported to monitor participants' progress.
The program consists of six weekly, two hour classes and a follow-up session. Included in the class work is a visit to the supermarket for hands-on experience making health selections, learning how to read ingredient labels and understand the elements of good nutrition and good health.
WMMC nutritionists and diabetes educators conduct HELP class in the produce section of a local supermarket.
The HELP Program is currently being offered at WMMC free of charge for families with one or more children ages 5-12 years who are overweight or obese. Click here for information about registration for HELP classes.
Down the Path To Fitness
Crystal Rengifo, a treatment authorization request coordinator at White Memorial, is terrified of diabetes, which runs in her family. So when she was diagnosed with pre-diabetes a year ago, she knew she had to take action.
“The day I had dreaded so much had come,” Crystal said. “I’ve seen what diabetes does. My mother, my two sisters and my brother all had strokes because of this disease. I felt I owed it to my husband and my daughter to make changes.”
Crystal lost 20 pounds by improving her eating habits, but she didn’t exercise regularly even though she belonged to a gym. That all changed with the opening of the White Memorial Fitness Path in January. Crystal walks the path after work four days a week, for three miles each day. She’s stronger, sleeps better and her doctor is thrilled with her progress.
The half-mile path, which winds around and through the hospital campus, was made possible by a generous gift from Zuzka Polishook, a local businesswoman and philanthropist who wanted to make a difference. Her vision to provide a safe and accessible way for the children in the hospital’s Healthy Eating Lifestyle Program (HELP) to exercise was broadened to include patients, family members, employees and the entire local community.
“The fitness path is there and available to everyone,” Zuzka said. “People who come to White Memorial don’t always have a place to exercise outdoors in their immediate neighborhood. Many of them are already coming to the hospital so now we’ve given them a way to exercise. And they can do it without being an athlete or needing a gym membership.”
Zuzka spoke passionately at the path’s dedication and became Crystal’s inspiration. “She motivated me!” Crystal said. “I thought her gift to the hospital and the community was such a wonderful thing.”