Claudia Gonzalez has always found it difficult to maintain the motivation for working out and staying healthy.

“Nothing has worked,” she said in a recent interview.

But that all changed for Gonzalez after the Kern County Department of Public Health Services launched a pilot fitness and nutrition program in Buttonwillow a few weeks ago.

“I just weighed in on Saturday, I lost 18 pounds,” she said. “It’s a lot. And I have a lot more energy as well.”

The Health Department launched the #KnowYourNumbers pilot program in Buttonwillow in early September.

Since it began, the program has seen a surprising amount of success in the small town west of Bakersfield, and the Health Department hopes to expand the pilot to multiple areas of Kern County by early 2019.

“I was pleasantly surprised,” said Lisa Amarillas, GIS Specialist for Kern Public Health, and fitness instructor for the program. “Working out after a long day of work isn’t most people’s favorite thing to do. So when we had that first day, we had 20 to 25 people, I was super excited.”

After about a hundred people showed up on the first night for free health screenings administered by the health department, a core group of about 20 Buttonwillow residents have appeared at each of the three twice-weekly classes.

The Health Department hosts fitness class at 5 p.m. followed by a nutrition class an hour later, with another fitness class after that.

“I incorporate cardio, strength training. We also do stretching and warm-up,” Amarillas said of the fitness routine. “It’s a total body, cardio, overall strength workout.”

The Buttonwillow pilot is aimed at reducing obesity and obesity-related chronic diseases. It teaches participants about their body mass index, known as BMI, blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol levels.

“We’re educating people on what those numbers mean, what those levels should be, what their current levels are, and how they can actually effect those numbers in a positive way to become more healthy,” said Public Health Assistant Director Brynn Carrigan.

The Buttonwillow Foundation donated $10,000 to Kern Public Health to pilot the program in the unincorporated community. The health department hopes to take the lessons it learned during the 12-week pilot as it expands the program throughout the county.

Carrigan said the health department’s mobile unit would provide health screenings to county residents, and both in-person and online fitness and nutrition classes would be provided to encourage good health.

“We really want to see people understand what these indicators are for their health and positively impact them before they become something much larger,” she said.

Many of the Buttonwillow participants have already seen positive impacts to their health as a result of the class.

Johnnie Harris, a mechanic at Toretta farms, said he has diabetes and wanted to use the classes to help him regulate his symptoms.

So far, he said the classes had helped him lose seven pounds, which is why he keeps coming back each week.

“I could probably lose more than that, but I cheat a little bit here and there,” he said. “You know, the weekends come around.”

Sam Morgen can be reached at 661-395-7415. Follow him on Twitter: @smorgenTBC.

(1) comment


Supervisor David Couch should have been quoted for this article. He has been a very passionate supporter of this effort and related efforts to fight diabetes in communities like Buttonwillow and Wasco. I've never heard of a Supervisor advocating as forcefully and creatively as Couch has for Buttonwillow over the last five years or so.

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