The Tongan Community Service Center in Los Angeles is working with the city of Carson to develop anti-tobacco policies with federal stimulus money in an effort to reduce the incidence of asthma and other diseases related to smoking and poor air quality.
Carson is one of the most heavily trafficked areas in California, with three majors freeways running directly through the city and two others nearby. The Environmental Protection Agency rated Carson’s air quality as among the worst in nation.
Poor air quality and smoking or second hand smoke are known to increase the incidence of asthma, heart disease, lung cancer, and many other health conditions. That’s prompted community interest in policies that can improve air quality and community health.
The economic stimulus package gave out $143 million in tobacco prevention grants to work with cities on policies and educational campaigns in an effort to stop people from smoking.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health won a $16 million grant to invest in tobacco prevention throughout the county. The Tongan Community Service Center is one of many local non-profit agencies that is implementing prevention campaigns under the supervision of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
The TCSC will work with the community members and local politicians to develop policies and implement them, with the goal of raising awareness of the health risks of tobacco and discourage its use.
Currently, the TCSC is taking inventory of local needs by reaching out to different groups in Carson—senior centers, churches, schools, recreation centers, as well as local businesses and survey the community on the policies they would like to see implemented.
“We’re building coalitions of local stakeholders,” Brian Hui, project coordinator for TCSC said.
Hui, said it is important to make sure all stakeholders are involved in the policy making process and that the policies, “beat with the pulse of the community.”
In addition to tobacco prevention TCSC provides a wide range of services to the Tongan community, a small group of Asian Pacific Islander immigrants in Los Angeles.
“We engage a lot in the health care continuum,” Hui said.
TCSC helps people navigate the health care system by providing community members with interpretation
services, education on Medical benefits, and educates people on the importance of regular screenings for diseases like breast and cervical cancer.
In addition, TCSC sponsors health fairs, Tongan language classes, and after school exercise and tutoring programs.