Santee has been rated the most active of East San Diego County communities, according to California Endowment ReConnect survey results.
Santee, Lakeside and Spring Valley are the most , and Mount Empire, Lemon Grove, El Cajon and La Mesa are the least active communities, according to the results.
“We were interested in taking a look at people’s perception on if they have access to exercise, access to healthy nutrition and if they’re using parks now as a way to maintain their health,” said Wendy Hileman, president of Healthy Adventures Foundation, and the principal investigator who coordinated the surveys.
Survey 1 focused on the overall health and wellness perceptions of survey respondents, Survey 2 focused on the overall perceptions of access to healthy nutrition, and Survey 3 focused on parks and recreation.
The first survey found that is overwhelmingly the first choice of exercise in East County communities.
East County communities, except for Lakeside and Mount Empire, also selected parks as their first choice of places to exercise. Other options included their home, gym, beach, school and other. Lakeside and Mount Empire chose their home first, then parks.
“We really want to highlight parks as a way for people to maintain their health, and, really, as a community forum where people can meet, whether it be for exercise or talking about nutrition and community gardens,” Hileman said.
Respondents said some parks should be avoided, however. Wells, Rennette and Lindo Lake parks, which are located in El Cajon and Lakeside, were selected as the top three parks to avoid after “other.”
Of the reasons given, 30.5 percent said safety/gangs, 24.1 percent said homelessness and 10.2 percent said location. Santee respondents selected as their top answer.
Santee respondents said preschool, youth fitness, youth enrichment, youth team sports, teen activities, adult/senior hobby/craft and adult/senior education programs are the “most important” programs to have in the community. Only preschools and Adult/Senior Education were selected as the “least important.”
As for healthy nutrition, all East County communities said that having , affordable food and healthy options are the three most important factors, respectively. Having prepared foods was least important, according to survey results.
Having options was ranked as the least important to Santee, Lakeside and Mount Empire, respectively.
When communities were asked why they ate at , the top reason was convenience. The communities that listed at the highest level were Santee and Lakeside, respectively.
The top three communities that eat at restaurants are Santee, Lakeside and La Mesa, according to the results.
Spring Valley, Santee and El Cajon, respectively, had the highest utilization of fast food restaurants—once per day or at least once per day—according to survey results. The majority of survey respondents said they eat at fast food restaurants because of convenience.
“California is not overly healthy,” Hileman said. “It’s certainly not the lowest or the worst, but it definitely still has higher incidents of childhood obesity than other areas, so there is a lot of work that can be done in this area to improve people's health.”
Hileman and Lafontant said they hope the surveys will encourage park use. They also hope communities will use the survey results for strategic planning.
The department will also use the survey results to help determine what programs communities want and need, Lafontant said.
“We really want to use what the community says as we’re going forward and developing our plans and programs for the future,” Lafontant said. “We use these assessments all the time to really see what the community wants and make sure our programs reflect that.”
Surveyors sought to collect surveys from the lowest socioeconomic and highest risk populations in East County. Most of the surveys were collected in person from food distribution sites. Surveys were also collected in cooperation with local churches, community centers, health fairs, community events and family resource centers.
There were 1,686 surveys collected for the first questionnaire, 1,943 surveys collected for the second questionnaire and 1,807 surveys collected for the third questionnaire.