Healthy Streets: Your stories from your neighborhood

You'll notice a number of stories on our site about how the streets of San Antonio can be friendlier, safer, more "walkable" and just plain healthier.

Healthier streets mean healthier people.

Make no mistake about it - we have a problem. Just look at this map of childhood obesity in San Antonio:

What is it about this place where we live that causes so many children and adults to be so overweight and get the ensuing diseases, such as diabetes?

Why is this wonderful city heading toward an unhealthy future where the next generation may live shorter lives than my generation?

We asked real people to tell us the truth behind the numbers.

We went to the Good Samaritan Center on San Antonio's West Side and talked to the Modelos -- the best high school students who are about to be the first ones in their family to enter college.

We went to the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center and talked to the women whose life experience spans generations on San Antonio's West Side.

We went to the Benavides Learning and Leadership Development Center on Castroville Road, one of the city's great community hubs, where people learn English as a Second Language and where a dedicated crew come daily to earn their G.E.D., the equivalent of a high school diploma.

We gave people the tools, the cameras and the training so they could become health periodistas - our new media journalists - so they could tell the street-level story of what needs fixing and how we can improve.

So far, stories include (look for more to come!):

From Marisa Gonzalez, a volunteer at the Esperanza Center, the story of how losing 'Mom and Pop' stores affect our streets and prevent health living.

From Saul Esparza, a junior at Burbank High School, the story of Syringes on our streets.

From JJ Nino, another volunteer at Esperanza, the story of Ancient Medicine in Botanicas.

From Daniel Acevedo, a student at the Benavides Center, boxer and West Side resident, a story about Local Boxing Gyms Joining the Fight Against Obesity.

From Felicia Galindo, a young parent and student at the Benavides Center, the story of West Side Sidewalks that discourage families from walking in their neighborhoods.

From Greg Vasquez, a sophomore at Lanier High School, the story of Graffiti on our Walls that makes the area uninviting.

From Sandra Guzman of the Benavides Center, a story explaining the Need for Shaded Recreational Areas.

From Tiffany Ross, of the Esperanza Center, the story of the disparity in fresh food, from West Side produce market to Pearl Farmers' Market

The NOWCastSA team - Heather DiMasi, David McLemore, Susana Hayward, Antonio Rodriguez, Andrew Delgado and I - worked with the periodistas for six weeks to find the stories, report them and to bring the stories alive online.

The stories from the streets will be used to inform San Antonio's pursuit of a coveted Complete Streets rating. According to the Complete Streets website, "Instituting a complete streets policy ensures that transportation planners and engineers consistently design and operate the entire roadway with all users in mind - including bicyclists, public transportation vehicles and riders, and pedestrians of all ages and abilities."

We got a community's worth of help on this project. The cameras were provided by the Healthy Kids Healthy Communities program, funded by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and with the Metropolitan Health District.

We also had significant help and support from the Metropolitan Planning Organization, the UT Health Science Center School of Nursing, the San Antonio Planning and Community Development Services, the Health Collaborative and NOWCastSA's parent and major funder, CI-NOW.


Feature photo taken by Marisa Gonzalez.