South Central Family Health Center (SCFHC) has provided comprehensive, quality and affordable health care and education to residents of low-income communities in South Los Angeles since 1981. We are a nonprofit 501(c) (3) Federally Qualified Health Center dedicated in improving the quality of life for the diverse community by offering health care to those individuals who are underserved and uninsured. The populations we serve are at high risk for a number of chronic and acute health conditions.
In 2010, Evelin Martinez, PA and Temica Boutte, PA started the exercise and nutrition program. They both were seeing a lot of patients with diabetes, hypertension and other medical conditions. The patient’s blood sugars and blood pressure were out of control and they would explain to them that diet and exercise are the cornerstones in terms of controlling these medical conditions. They would ask them if they exercised and where they exercised and how often they exercised. A lot of patients expressed to them that there wasn’t anywhere for them really to exercise in the area. There wasn’t access to places like the YMCA/YWCA or LA Fitness because they were too far away. Also, cost was an issue from an economic standpoint; financially it was too expensive for them. They expressed walking in the parks nearby or walking around their neighborhoods didn’t feel safe especially at night. Many are able to walk after work but didn’t feel they had any place to go.
Temica and Evelin felt that this was really bad for the patients and thought that they needed to do something to provide an exercise program and nutrition education and really help patients to be able to work out and get in shape as well as work on the medical conditions they are dealing with. They decided to do something about it and started exercise and nutrition classes. They initially started at a park in the area and invited patients to attend. SCFHC found out that they were doing this for the patients and stepped in and had their grant writer identify some grants, applied and were awarded three (3) grants. We offer a variety of different exercise classes including nutrition education and have seen an impact in terms of patient’s blood sugars, remarkable changes in their blood pressure, weight loss, a lot of them that were depressed or anxious came back and reported they were feeling better and overall excited when they come in and they really enjoy the classes. The best part is that it’s free. We don’t have to worry about problems with access because of financial or economical issues. We are excited that we are able to provide this program and are looking forward to expand it and be able to provide additional classes, more often. We currently have yoga, boot camp, Zumba and we want to be able to offer even more classes to our patients.
SCFHC also provides children’s exercise classes two times a week for our overweight children who have a medical condition or their siblings who wish to participate. They do soccer for an hour and they also do yoga for an hour. Our exercise programs are designed to get you to move and help you lose weight and help your blood sugars and blood pressure get controlled. Unfortunately offering these classes twice a week is not enough. The goal is to at least introduce it to them so that they can see it and like it and continue doing it and kind of find out some other ways to continue exercising that we can’t provide because of limited resources. It makes them feel good, it decreases their stress, the students and patients talk to each other and share their stories. Evelin and Temica talk to them after class about their aches and pain. It’s a nice place to socialize outside the exam room, but more importantly to exercise and to become healthier mentally, spiritually and physically. It has helped a lot of patients out. They have heard patients say “well I started out here and now I do my own at this other place 2-3 times a week.” This is what we were striving for. We hope to be able to get more funding so we can offer these yoga classes to our prenatal patients and soft Yoga for our senior patients who have arthritis. We currently have a low attendance rate for our male patients and we are trying to encourage them to attend as well.
Temica and Evelin noticed that it wasn’t enough telling the patients to exercise and take their medicines and it wasn’t enough to give them a lecture. We had to provide them with these services so they can actually do what they prescribed to them. If you tell them to exercise, the best way for them to do it is for them to come to the clinic where there an actually exercise program that they can follow.
What’s been great is that it fosters a since of community. The patients look forward to seeing one another and they are building relationships, building accountability so that they have someone who is also dealing with a medical condition or want to lose weight or be healthier – they don’t feel alone in the process and they have that support. They really emphasize a lot of accountability and also encourage them to go outside of the clinic and exercise on their own or meet up with another partner in class and workout outside the class. They really push the patients to exercise 30-60 minutes, five (5) days a week. We also offer cooking classes for our patients. SCFHC has a Nutritionist that comes in and cooks healthy meals for them. The patients get a chance to sample the foods and get great ideas for them to be able to cook healthy meals for their families. We offer many different meal options, and tasty foods that are really healthy and low in fat and sugar. We strive to keep with our motto “To heal, educated and empower.”