Combatting obesity and diabetes: Kern County’s health initiative

July 10, 2024 /

On Tuesday, Kern County Department of Public Health Director Brynn Carrigan presented the latest data on obesity and diabetes in Kern, highlighting their significant impact on the community.

“Over the last couple of years our department has made it a tradition to have an annual campaign that we use to educate and encourage residents to live healthier lives,” announced Carrigan at the start of the demonstration.

This year’s campaign is “A Healthier Kern – One Heart at a Time” and Public Health is using this campaign to address the top 10 public health challenges. The topics for July are obesity and commonly associated diseases like diabetes which are impacting Kern residents with some of the highest rates in the state.

According to Carrigan, 79% of Kern County adults are overweight or obese, with almost 50% of these adults being obese. 78.8% of Kern County’s teen population is overweight or obese, with 17% being classified as obese. 8.7% of Kern County adults are diagnosed with diabetes.

In addition to this data, Carrigan revealed that Kern County has the highest mortality rate of diabetes in the entire state of California, meaning Kern County residents are more likely to die than residents of any other county.

“While there is no current cure for diabetes, weight management, healthy eating, and regular exercise certainly help to prevent diabetes and help those who have the disease manage the disease,” said Carrigan.

Data on Public Health’s Healthier Kern webpage shows the danger of prediabetes, which is a higher-than-normal blood sugar level. Although it’s not high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes, adults and children with prediabetes who don’t make lifestyle changes are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The data states that about 98 million American adults, which is more than one in three, have prediabetes and that more than eight in 10 adults with prediabetes don’t know they have it. Not only does prediabetes increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, but it also increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.

The following are all symptoms of diabetes and if you have any of the following symptoms, Public Health urges you to see your doctor about getting your blood sugar tested:

  • Urinate (pee) a lot, often at night
  • Are very thirsty
  • Lose weight without trying
  • Are very hungry
  • Have blurry vision
  • Have numb or tingling hands or feet
  • Feel very tired
  • Have very dry skin
  • Have sores that heal slowly
  • Have more infections than usual

After presenting Kern County’s data at Toss It Salad Bar on Tuesday, Carrigan handed the floor to Gabriela Gonzalez and the Public Health Department’s nutritionist. They conducted an engaging demonstration on healthy eating to combat obesity and chronic diseases like diabetes.

Toss It Salad Bar is just one of many restaurants that are part of Public Health’s certified healthy program, a program that is committed to empowering Kern County residents with the awareness needed to make healthy decisions when dining out at restaurants.

This program considers 10 nutrition criteria, focusing on sodium content, calorie count, saturated fat, vegetarian options, and the availability of fruits and vegetables in menu items.

Given that Kern County is significantly impacted by chronic diseases like diabetes and obesity, substantial dietary improvements are essential for addressing these health concerns.

A full list of Kern County restaurants that are part of this program is available on Public Health’s certified healthy webpage.

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Victoria Rodgers

Victoria Rodgers is an editor and reporter for Kern Sol News. Born in Bakersfield, CA, she received her Bachelor of Arts in English from Rockford University in Illinois. She can be reached at