The Take Action series highlights initiatives that are making a difference in our communities. We honor those who refuse to be bystanders.

Latino Health Access, launched 19 years ago under the leadership of Venezuelan doctor America Bracho, has inspired residents of one Southern California community to be responsible and proactive concerning their own wellbeing.

"I arrived in Santa Ana in 1992, I came from Michigan where I got my master's in public health," Bracho told Efe.

"Here, I started a radio program in Spanish to talk about health issues, but I didn't expect that in this county (Orange) there would be so few resources allocated to taking care of people with low incomes, particularly if they spoke Spanish," she said.

Knocking on 40,000 doors every year in the poorest sectors of Orange County, Bracho and a group of volunteers identified the need to initiate programs to handle diabetes, domestic violence, obesity, nutrition, alcoholism, mental health and elder care.

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"Santa Ana is the political heart of Orange County. Some 325,000 people live here of whom 75 percent are of Hispanic origin. The county is among the richest in the U.S., but when we get into the ... data we see a considerable rate of poverty in this city and serious health problems that often derive from the environmental conditions," Bracho said.

The 92701 Zip Code was the most common among all the requests for health aid that came to LHA, and so it did not surprise them to discover that the community did not have open spaces where children, young people and adults could play and exercise.

"So, along with the community, we set about the task of lobbying for the construction of a park for this sector, but the struggle wasn't easy. Eight years have passed since we began this crusade," she said.

Finally, in 2011 they got the state to allocate $3.5 million for the construction of a park that will be ready this summer and will have areas to walk and exercise, half a basketball court and a community center with a kitchen, classrooms and libraries.

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Along with businessmen, the Santa Ana city hall and the community have also pushed for the creation of the Wellness Corridor, a health hub that will include connections between the business district and the residential area along some of the streets and health fairs, the selling of fruit and healthy food at affordable prices, water for those who are exercising and much more.

"If we base things just on the data from Orange County, then Zip Code 92701 would have no resources. Since poor areas become invisible, it's important to intervene based on the place," the activist said.

Latino Health Access provides employment for 70 people and has more than 500 volunteers ranging in age from 6 to 75. It has an annual budget of about $3 million coming from private institutions, city hall, philanthropists and the community.

To learn more about the Latino Health Access go to latinohealthaccess.net.

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