Guest Blogger: Brittni Chicuata, Government Relations Director Advocacy, Bay Area

With the holiday season upon us and the end of the year fast approaching, it feels only natural to take the time to reflect on the things for which I am thankful. This year has been quite remarkable, and I must say that I am most grateful for the community of family and friends in my life. The love and support that they give me to live happily and healthily is invaluable. Beyond personal success, my community has also always encouraged me to advocate for others to live happily and healthily. That motivation, coupled with my own calling to be a public advocate, has led me to the work I do today. 

These days we know that there are many ways to live a healthy life, including not being a smoker, incorporating exercise into our routines, and eating nutritious foods. For some, these lifestyle choices simply are not possible: they have neighbors or parents who smoke and, subsequently, expose them to secondhand smoke; they do not have safe routes to school or to work, much less accessible and safe parks to play and exercise in; or, they do not live in neighborhoods with grocery stores nearby, and perhaps are surrounded by convenience stores that do not offer the most healthful or affordable food options. Today, one-in-five children lives in poverty which, studies show, is a social determinant not only of one’s educational and professional attainment, but also of one’s health outcomes. While our economy continues to improve, these undesirable conditions are a reality for a very significant portion of our population. These qualitative health disparities of access are reflected in the quantitative inequities we see of chronic conditions associated with cardiovascular diseases and stroke.

So this holiday season, while I am thankful for my own community and health, I am also thinking of those who are not as healthy or happy and they can be. As previously stated, 2013 was a remarkable year, but I plan on making 2014 an even better one and I know that you’ll join me! Together we can confront secondhand smoke exposure and childhood obesity, among other initiatives, at the local level through our grassroots work. Our work will ensure that we continue to build healthier lives here in California and address preventable health conditions.