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Riverside Mayor Rusty Bailey spoke on the city's health initiatives during CBU's Distinguished Lecture Series, presented by The Press-Enterprise. (Photo by Locy Durant)
Riverside Mayor Rusty Bailey spoke on the city's health initiatives during CBU's Distinguished Lecture Series, presented by The Press-Enterprise. (Photo by Locy Durant)

Riverside mayor challenges community to live healthier lifestyle

RIVERSIDE (Feb. 11, 2014)—“One in four youth in Riverside are overweight,” said Riverside Mayor Rusty Bailey, “and about 56 percent of adults in this area are overweight or obese. We’re going to change that.”

Bailey was featured speaker Feb. 10 at California Baptist University’s College of Allied Health Distinguished Lecture Series, presented by The Press-Enterprise. An audience of Riverside residents, CBU students, faculty and staff packed the Wallace Theatre to hear him discuss the topic Healthy Riverside: City of Riverside Initiatives for a Healthier Community.

A third generation Riverside native, Bailey quoted I Corinthians 6:19-20: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.”

The Bible verse was the focus of Bailey’s lecture on his vision for a healthy Riverside.

“Individuals became G.I.s when they stepped into the role of soldier,” he said. “That stood for ‘government issue.’ Maybe we should call ourselves G.I.s also and let it stand for ‘God issue.’”

Bailey said that three behaviors contribute to the most common chronic diseases: smoking, diet and lack of exercise. He said Riverside has a number of programs to address those behaviors.

He identified “food deserts” in Riverside, where low-income residents have little access to transportation and, therefore, few healthy food options.

“Green Riverside is a program that encourages community gardens on city property,” he said. “We’ve also taken an active role in local food access by providing mobile trucks.

Bailey acknowledged the farmers’ markets available in several parts of Riverside each week, making healthy food more available to citizens. In addition, he spoke about the Fit, Fresh and Fun program, which encourages residents to adopt a healthy lifestyle.

“Our goal is to reduce the overweight and obese to less than 50 percent of the city population,” he added.

Bailey praised local partnerships, which have been key in the city’s initiatives for a healthier community.

“The Walk Riverside Campaign involved 428 walkers in 26 local neighborhoods,” he said. “Those individuals took 4,056 walks for a total of 12,518 miles in three months. Also, the Workplace Wellness program helped 330 employees shed 2,900 pounds last year just by providing them exercise space in stairwells and walking paths.”

Yet, the mayor was quick to say that his own healthy lifestyle, just like anyone else’s, could use improvement.

“It’s hard to fit in time to diet and exercise,” he said, “but we’re going to work on that, right?”

The Distinguished Lecture Series explores local and national issues and trends of interest to people involved in the promotion of good health. The next speaker will be Dr. Gil Odendaal, vice president of integral mission for World Relief, a non-profit that works to empower churches to serve the vulnerable in their communities. Odendaal will speak on the topic Healthcare is a justice issue: From ideology to practice and the changing role of the church March 10 at 6:30 p.m. in Wallace Theatre.