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West Valley City Journal

Committee works to promote healthier residents

May 06, 2024 10:53AM ● By Darrell Kirby

The Healthy West Valley Committee hopes to make the Decker Lake area a key part of its efforts to improve the health of city residents. (Darrell Kirby/City Journals)

A strong economy, safe neighborhoods, and good government help make for a livable city. But an unhealthy citizenry can weaken what otherwise is a good community foundation.

Enter the Healthy West Valley Committee. It’s a group of volunteers from a coalition of area institutions devoted to improving the quality of life of residents by encouraging them and  pointing them to resources to live healthier lifestyles—physically, mentally and emotionally. 

Healthy West Valley is not a new organization. It started in 2018, but not a lot of people know it exists. Committee chairman Kevin Nguyen said it started as a grassroots effort when he and West Valley City Councilmember Jake Fitisemanu recognized a need to help the city’s diverse population find ways to improve its collective health. 

“It’s pretty diverse in terms of the representation from the various sectors,” Nguyen said, noting that the West Valley City’s Parks and Recreation Department is on board along with the Neighborhood Services Division. Other partners include University of Utah Health and Intermountain Health. “It’s been really exciting to see the coalition grow.”

The West Valley City Council a year ago made it a formal city committee under the Neighborhood Services Division which gives it access to additional city resources to carry out its mission. “Our division thrives on members of the community who have a passion to make positive change and Healthy West Valley is a prime example of the committed residents we have here,” said Alex Kidd, Neighborhood Services’ community engagement specialist. 

West Valley City’s largest ethnic group, Hispanics, are more prone to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney and liver disease. The top health concerns of Pacific Islanders are cancer, diabetes, stroke and diabetes. And a sizable number of them are also beset by obesity and high blood pressure, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health. 

Healthy West Valley has several work groups focusing on key parts of people’s health makeup— physical, mental and emotional. “How do we increase access to health resources for people?” Nguyen said of what the committee is tackling right now. Knowledge is the key first step. “How do we provide better (health) education opportunities?” he asked. The partial answer is getting out in the community at city-sponsored events like SpringFest, WestFest, and the summertime farmers market, the latter helping to encourage healthier eating habits. Nguyen hopes the committee can even put together a WinterFest event, “something during the wintertime when most people get depressed.” 

Healthy West Valley is also working with the city to continue building out its Crosstown and Jordan River trail system, so residents have places to get out and exercise. Part of that plan also includes making Decker Lake more of a destination for biking, walking and other means of physical activity. 

The overall objectives of the committee will be driven in large part by gathering health-related data. West Valley City, along with 46 other cities, is taking part this year in the Utah Wellbeing Survey conducted by Utah State University. The just-ended survey collected information from residents to help create a report on “findings across a variety of topics such as well-being domain ratings and importance, community well-being, community connection, population and economic growth, and future concerns” all things that can have varying impacts on the health of residents, according to the survey website. That report will also come with “tailored resources that target the improvement of individual well-being categories.” 

Another incentive to get out and exercise is Healthy West Valley’s Birds and Bikes initiative this summer. A Trail Scavenger Hunt and Golden Spoke Ride are opportunities for people to walk or bike the city’s trail network in a fun way with prizes being awarded for the Trail Scavenger Hunt. Each kicks off May 11 with the scavenger hunt running through Sept. 12. Details are available at λ