Promoting “Salud”: CLOCC Focuses on Latino Health

Daney Ramirez and Jaime Arteaga

By Jaime Arteaga, CLOCC Community Programs Coordinator, and Daney Ramirez, CLOCC Food Environment Coordinator

On February 7, 2014. DePaul University hosted the Health Disparities and Social Justice Conference.  With a special focus on Latino health, the conference offered a valuable space for dialogue among a range of health and community experts who share DePaul’s mission to address social injustices and community health practices in marginalized groups. Presenters provided a training opportunity to increase public health skills in identifying and addressing a wide variety of health disparities in diverse communities.  We are excited to participate and represent CLOCC at this event.

I (Jaime) was a panelist for the ¡Vive Tu Vida! A Model for Creating Healthy Social Experiences and Systems in Low Socio-Economic Status Hispanic Communities workshop where I highlighted the importance and need for walkable communities to promote active transportation by residents.  To support this, CLOCC has a Neighborhood Walkability Assessment Tool that offers straightforward solutions that help lay the foundation for living an active, safe and healthy lifestyle. Participants also learned about Active Transportation’s Better Blocks work which produces community walking ambassadors and promote walking groups; The American Heart Association’s Walking Paths program which uses a fun online tool and phone app to design free and safe routes in communities that promotes walking, brings neighbors together, and provides valuable history lessons; and LISC’s Play Streets initiative that activates community space and spurs physical activity in communities that either lack green space or safe space for residents to enjoy.  At the end of the session, participants were able to define and apply steps in the assessment process, test an online tool to create customized paths in their communities, and learn how to become walking advocates in their neighborhoods.

I (Daney), along with CLOCC School and Community Initiatives Manager Anna Barnes, presented findings from our Healthy Mobile Vending project.  As a part of Healthy CPS, our Healthy Mobile Vending Project works to provide education and support to schools and mobile food vendors at twenty-five K-8 elementary schools located on the Southwest side of Chicago.  Currently, a significant number of CPS students, primarily in predominately Latino communities, have access to a large variety of foods and beverages sold by mobile food vendors before and after school.   As such, this project primarily focuses on building the capacity of mobile food vendors to offer and sell healthy food items, by empowering them to understand the importance of topics such as healthy eating, nutrition labels, and recipes modifications.  The goal of the project is to increase the availability of healthy options available from mobile food vendors for these students. CLOCC works to achieve this goal through a number of intervention strategies including: offering training and technical assistance to vendors, engaging parents and students in nutrition workshops, launching a school based social marketing campaign that promotes healthy snacking, distributing educational and promotional materials and building community-wide support. Those strategies, as well as lessons learned from the project were discussed.

This was a great opportunity to not only share CLOCC’s walkability and mobile vending work, but also to learn about other important initiatives going on in Chicago that support Latino health (or salud in Spanish).   Want to know more about CLOCC’s work?  Contact Jaime at jarteaga@luriechildrens.org or Daney at deramirez@luriechildrens.org.

Posted in community partnerships, food access, schools, walkability | Leave a comment

Supporting the Blueprint at Belmont-Cragin Elementary School

Dennis Peters

By Dennis Peters, Guest Blogger

Dennis Peters is a physical education teacher at Belmont-Cragin Elementary School in Chicago.

Belmont-Cragin Elementary School is a PK-8 school located on the northwest side of Chicago.  We have 629 students in grades ranging from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade.  We have worked with CLOCC staff for the past several years in our efforts to meet the HealthierUS Schools Challenge.  (We have achieved Bronze status but are still working toward Gold!) In 2013, CLOCC released a ten-year plan for Chicago called the Blueprint for Accelerating Progress in Childhood Obesity Prevention in Chicago: The Next Decade, and I read the schools recommendations with great interest.  They are in line with the work we are doing here at Belmont-Cragin, so I am happy to share our efforts to support the Blueprint recommendations here at our school.

Our Principal, Stacy Stewart, has always been a champion, recognizing that an improved Physical Education (P.E.) curriculum and getting students more active throughout the school day has academic benefits for the students.  She supported my initiative to adopt a new evidence-based P.E. curriculum that engages students in more moderate to vigorous physical activity than our previous curriculum did. This adoption of a more vigorous P.E. program supports Goal 1 for Schools in the Blueprint: Ensure all schools in Chicago support healthy eating and physical activity for students.

We have gone even further.  Here are just a few of the initiatives we have implemented that support Goal 1 of the Blueprint:

  • Daily classroom physical activity through a program that includes “deskercises” for our K-5 classes
  • A 20-minute walking program before ISAT testing last spring, including the distribution of water bottles to the students and education for the staff on the importance of water and exercise
  • Nutrition education and lunch menus that follow USDA requirements
  • A healthy celebrations policy so school and classroom celebrations are healthier
    for students

I attribute the trend toward health, wellness, and enhanced physical education in our school to strong leadership from the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Office of Student Health and Wellness. This office works to increase the quality of health services and wellness environments through collaboration, and has been assisting schools in enhance P.E. throughout Chicago.  Part of their focus has been on providing professional development for staff.  Since September 2012, the Physical Education Leadership Team (PELT), convened by CPS, has provided six professional development training days designed to familiarize teachers with enhanced P.E. and the neuroscience research supporting it.

Our health and wellness efforts have also been driven by the introduction of CPS’ 30+20+10 Program at our school.  This includes 30 minutes of daily P.E. for every student, 20 minutes of meaningful recess each day, and 10 minutes of physical activity in the classroom.  I have attended training for this entire program, and Mr. Pallante, one of our 7th grade teachers, is receiving training to be the coordinator of the classroom physical activity – or, as we like to call it, Movement Intervention.  All of these training efforts directly support Blueprint Objective 1-4: Increase capacity of school staff to implement physical activity and nutrition education strategies.

I am optimistic about the focus CPS has taken to enhance Physical Education, especially with the Chicago Board of Education’s passage of a new comprehensive P.E. policy in January of 2014.  However, I know many schools will face difficulties in light of CPS budget constraints.  We know we have to hire additional Physical Education teachers in order to have daily P.E. available to all students, and this could be a challenge.  While our resources may be tight, Belmont-Cragin is a school that has sought opportunities for collaboration and improvement and is seeing the results.

I encourage my students by showing them their improvements, and I make a big deal out of the strides that they make in their health and wellness.  I even showcase their achievements to the administration.  I am proud of my students, fellow staff, and administration at Belmont-Cragin for making student health and wellness a priority.  I am also proud that we are part of a larger citywide initiative to put Chicago children on a healthier path by supporting the CLOCC Blueprint.  I encourage other schools to join us and to share your efforts with CLOCC.  Together, we can accelerate progress in childhood obesity prevention in Chicago through this work!

Parts of this post were adapted from the Illinois Public Health Institute Belmont-Cragin Elementary School case study.  We thank them for permission to use this content.

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Reflections on 2013

Adam Becker

by Adam Becker, PhD, MPH, Executive Director

As 2013 comes to a close, I want to take this opportunity to thank you all for another wonderful year of partnership and collaboration. This was a year of great successes and advancements for obesity prevention in Chicago and beyond. We can all be proud of our many accomplishments. While there are far too many to list here, I wanted to share just a few highlights:

•   Our Blueprint for Accelerating Progress in Childhood Obesity Prevention in Chicago: The Next Decade was released in January and was received with great enthusiasm. Over the first three quarters of 2013, CLOCC partner efforts have helped to advance 24 of the 48 objectives in the Blueprint, supporting 13 of the 17 total goals.

•   CLOCC led the development of recommendations for new requirements around nutrition, physical activity and screen time in licensed childcare, which were submitted to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services through the Illinois Early Learning Council. The proposed requirements were based on standards first adopted by the Chicago Board of Health in 2009 with support from CLOCC. We expect the new requirements to go into effect in July 2014.

•   CLOCC partners began working on the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative in 2010 under or federally-funded project, Healthy Places. In 2013, Healthy Places wound down but CLOCC staff continued to support 13 hospitals working toward Baby Friendly Designation. Hospitals across the city are setting policies and adopting practices that help women to breastfeed their babies from the moment of birth. With the great progress these hospitals are making, we anticipate at least one hospital will be designated in early 2014 making it the first Baby Friendly hospital in the City of Chicago.

•   CLOCC’s Community Programs Team trained over 20 community-based organizations on our Neighborhood Walkability Assessment Tool. Working in collaboration with the Active Transportation Alliance, we continue to support these organizations as they advocate for built environment improvements to increase access to safe opportunities for physical activity in their communities.

•   2013 also saw major additions to our collaborative work with Chicago Public Schools. We partnered with CPS’s Office of Student Health and Wellness on Healthy CPS to promote healthy school food environments through mobile vending and to evaluate their new three-year project to enhance physical education, funded by the U.S. Department of Education (Carol White Physical Education Program Grant).

CLOCC’s success is really in its partners – CLOCC is all of us and none of our accomplishments would be possible without the commitment, energy, and passion of the thousands of people who comprise the consortium. These and the many more successes we have accomplished are largely due to all of your efforts across the city (and beyond) to support healthy lifestyles for children and families. We appreciate your hard work and commitment to ensuring that children and their families across our city, state, and nation have the opportunity to live healthy and productive lives for generations to come. We wish you a happy and healthy holiday season and look forward to continued good work ahead in 2014!

Posted in blueprint, early childhood, evaluation, healthy places, reflections, schools, walkability | Leave a comment

Puppets Promoting Prevention: Consulting with the Research and Evaluation Interest Group

Joy Menhennett

by Joy Menhennett, Guest Blogger

We asked Joy Menhennett, Food and Nutrition Education Coordinator for La Casa Norte in Chicago, to write about her experience consulting with the CLOCC Research and Evaluation Interest Group to improve their evaluation effort.

Aveggies! A Nutrition Puppet Show is La Casa Norte’s program aimed to educate 3-5 year olds in Humboldt Park daycare centers about healthy eating habits. The program also engages youth from the community as paid puppeteers.  The puppeteers’ responsibilities are to perform the shows and to assist in the creation of the scripts alongside La Casa Norte staff and outside nutrition consultants. We currently have four shows, each with their own theme: Hydration, Sometimes Food/Anytime Food, Growing (Food), and The ABCs of Vitamins. Throughout our evaluation process, we have come across some challenges in obtaining data directly from participating children. The evaluation method we began with involved three pre and post questions that were asked out loud and followed by a show of hands to indicate the children’s responses. We had a few concerns with this because we wanted our evaluations to be both developmentally appropriate for the age group and help us accurately quantify the impact of our program on our young audience. We initially struggled with the wording of the questions and the thought that there might be other evaluation tools better suited for this age range.

Then, I attended the CLOCC Research and Evaluation Interest Group (REIG) meeting hoping to gain some insight on evaluation methods. I explained some of the difficulties we were having with evaluating the children at the daycares. The REIG discussed the request and decided to host a 45-minute consultation with our program before CLOCC’s June Quarterly Meeting to help us improve our evaluation efforts.

I explained to the REIG participants our concerns and challenges of evaluating 3-5 year olds and that we were open to modifying our methods if there were more child-friendly approaches that could be implemented. Some of the issues we were having with our current evaluation efforts were that there was the potential for social influence within the groups that could have affected who would raise their hand, and that the way we phrased the question or at what point we instructed them to raise their hands seemed to have an effect on the outcomes. We also found that some children seemed eager to always raise their hand regardless of the question and that some children wouldn’t engage and respond at all. Therefore, we were searching for something that could reduce the effects of these issues on our evaluation.

Throughout the consultation, we were provided with some great ideas and feedback from people who have had experience working with a similar age group. Some of the suggestions we received included: asking open-ended questions to the kids individually in order to get a better grasp on what specifics they have learned, printing out large pictures of healthy and unhealthy foods and having the children point to which photo is healthy, separating the kids into age groups and doing different age appropriate evaluations, telling the children to put their heads down before raising their hands to respond, or having the puppets with whom the children have been very engaged ask the evaluation questions. We were also provided with some resources for additional literature on the subject of evaluating children.

I am excited to report that we have begun to use the approach where our star puppet, Mike Mike, asks the pre and post questions to the children. We have completed our first trial run at a show, and it went well. The children’s connection with the puppet is apparent in the way in which they appeared to be more engaged while being asked and answering the questions, and they seemed to have a better understanding of what we were asking. We plan to continue to move forward with this method and may use some of the other suggestions as we rework the shows, but for now this is very promising. We appreciate all of the resources, insight, and ideas that were brought forth and will continue to utilize them as our program goes on.

For information on how you can arrange a REIG consultation for your program, contact Sarah Welch or Maryann Mason at CLOCC – swelch@luriechildrens.org or mmason@luriechildrens.org.

La Case Norte puppet show

A young audience member interacts with one of the puppeteers to talk about healthy eating while the puppet takes a break between shows.

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CLOCC Released a Blueprint – Now What?

Adam Becker

by Adam Becker, PhD, MPH, Executive Director

On January 8, CLOCC released a Blueprint for Accelerating Progress in Childhood Obesity Prevention in Chicago: The Next Decade.  The blueprint was developed over a year-long period.  During that time, we engaged our local and national leadership and advisors to identify national best-practice and evidence-based approaches.  CLOCC staff identified existing strategies that were being implemented by our many partners or new strategies that would complement the variety of interventions already under way.  We explored the emerging ideas with consortium members through formal and informal conversations and at our September 2012 Quarterly Meeting.  All of this collective wisdom was then synthesized into the document, which we hope will serve as a “one-stop-shop” for obesity prevention recommendations. 

Although the document is intended as a guide for Chicago (because that’s where CLOCC staff and the majority of our partners have the most depth of experience) we are confident that many of the recommendations will be relevant for communities across Illinois and beyond.  The feedback we have received so far is very encouraging, and it is an indication that consortium partners will be using the blueprint in a variety of ways.  But, you might be wondering – “CLOCC released the blueprint…now what?”

CLOCC staff is now hard at work identifying the goals, objectives, and strategies that we will prioritize as an organization.  We plan to share these specific priorities with all of you very soon.  We hope that CLOCC partners will see their own priorities in the blueprint (or use it to identify new ones), and share their progress in accomplishing their goals.  In that spirit, we would like you to take a look at the recommendations at the end of each section of the blueprint and do any or all of the following things:

• Let us know what goals/objectives/strategies/tactics your organization is already doing or planning to do in the near future by sending this information to blueprint@clocc.net.  We will add your plans to the list of current/ongoing efforts that are happening to support the goals and objectives in the blueprint and share our collective progress in advancing the blueprint recommendations.

• Let us know what additional goals/objectives/strategies/tactics your organization would be willing to take on in the future and whether or not you would take them on alone or would be interested in partnering with CLOCC staff and/or other consortium members by sending information and requests to blueprint@clocc.net.  We will work with you to find partners to help you in your efforts. 

• Use the blueprint (the research, the recommendations, or both!) to support your organization’s decision-making and fundraising – and tell us how it helps you  by sending updates to blueprint@clocc.net.  We will collect this information and share it with the consortium so others can get ideas on how they can use the blueprint in their own work. 

• Make your support of the blueprint and its recommendations public by allowing us to list you as an endorsing organization.  Send your endorsement to blueprint@clocc.net, and we will share the list on the CLOCC website and other materials.  We would love to include your organization there!

We hope that the release of the blueprint and the actions we all take can help to mobilize even further the childhood obesity prevention community in Chicago and beyond to achieve the goals and objectives we’ve presented, using the strategies and tactics we’ve identified, so collectively we can advance our work to create healthier children, families, and communities and truly accelerate the progress we’ve made so far.  We appreciate your consideration and look forward to working with you to make these recommendations realities!

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Turning Wellness Policies into Action at a Healthy Teacher Network Workshop

Rodney Tripplett

by Rodney Tripplett, School Programs Intern

On November 27, 2012, CLOCC’s Healthy Teacher Network hosted a workshop with the theme Wellness Policies into Action: Making Healthy Students Happen that was attended by teachers, counselors, and school nurses.  It began with a presentation of the highlights of the new Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Local School Wellness and Healthy Snack and Beverage policies from Annie Lionberger, CPS Senior Manager of Student Health and Wellness. This provided an opportunity for participants to gain a better understanding of the key requirements and guidelines of the new wellness policies. Participants also engaged in breakout sessions that focused on key components outlined in the wellness policy such as forming wellness teams, implementing activities to engage all students during recess, and integrating nutrition education into the school day. 

To provide tools for addressing the nutrition education requirement of the new CPS wellness policies, Rebecca Calendo, CLOCC Health Educator, facilitated a session focused on a nutrition and food access curriculum called Cultivating Change. This curriculum includes a series of lesson plans for middle school grades to develop students’ awareness of their food choices as well as food access and health issues that impact their communities. In the session, participants learned project ideas, recipes, and activities to launch a unit on food and health. 

Likewise, Urban Initiatives led an engaging session and dialogue on implementing activities to get students moving during recess. Play with Potential, a recess program developed by Urban Initiatives, includes games that are adaptable to a variety of spaces including outdoor fields, classrooms, and multi-use areas. Program Manager April Lillstrom encouraged school staff to engage all students in physical activity and emphasized the importance of recess as being safe, fun, and active as well as an opportunity to facilitate positive youth development. At the end of the session, participants experienced a sample of Play with Potential activities, gaining a better sense of how recess can be improved at their respective schools. 

Overall feedback on the workshop was very positive.  Participants particularly enjoyed the breakout sesson on how to initiate wellness councils. This included a success story from Kristen Janko, adult facilitator for Young Organizers Leading Others (YOLO) at Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy. YOLO tackles issues students want to address in the school and broader community. It began when students decided to raise funds to expand the school’s fitness center and add new equipment. YOLO has raised over $3,000 from fundraising efforts which include school health awareness dances, bake sales, and walk-a-thons. In the breakout, Kristen explained successes and challenges as well as tips for other schools wishing to replicate their work. Kristen strongly encouraged staff struggling to start a wellness council to involve youth, be open to their ideas, gain support from faculty and parents, and ensure student wellness groups are inclusive and accountable. 

As at past workshops, participants networked at the Resource Fair with a variety of community organizations that promote student wellness, healthy eating and physical activity. Twenty-one organizations participated – the largest number to date! Educators from the Lower West Side, North Lawndale, and Chicago Lawn/West Edison were among the most represented at the workshop, with many first time as well as returning staff.

The Healthy Teacher Network fall workshop provided tools to put the wellness policies into action, and we look forward to hearing how they help attendees to create healthier students throughout the city of Chicago.

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Looking Back and Looking Forward: Our Tenth Year and Beyond

Adam Becker

by Adam Becker, PhD, MPH, Executive Director

Welcome to the fourth and final quarter of our 10th anniversary year!  I hope you have found this year to be an exciting review of our decade of the accomplishments we have achieved together and an interesting examination of the things that make CLOCC tick.   This quarter, we are looking toward the future of childhood obesity prevention in Chicago and beyond. 

In CLOCC’s early days, under the energetic leadership of Matt Longjohn and the thoughtful guidance of our founder, Katherine Kaufer Christoffel, the staff’s main focus was building the consortium from dozens to hundreds, organization by organization.  We developed and implemented strategic approaches to demonstrating that there was indeed an obesity epidemic in Chicago and that collaboration among diverse partners was essential to combat it.  In some ways, our work now is easier – very few would argue that there isn’t an obesity epidemic!  The combination of our local surveillance and organizing work and an emerging national understanding of the scale of the epidemic has helped Chicago recognize that we have a serious health problem on our hands.  However, the work is also more complicated as we learn more about obesity and its many causes and risk factors.  It has become increasingly apparent that there is no single solution.

Early on, a lot of our collective efforts were focused on programming – short-term, specific programs and interventions developed to start or keep individual children on a path to a healthy lifestyle.  Our attention to individually-focused approaches and the recognition that  children and families needed sound information make good decisions when it came to nutrition and physical activity led us to develop the 5-4-3-2-1 Go!® healthy lifestyle message.  The message was intended to be a roadmap for children and families to follow to ensure healthy and active lives.  As the years unfolded and the national and local research and experience base matured, we began to recognize the importance of altering the environments in which children and families find themselves – making health easier where kids and families live, work, learn, and play.  Known as policy, systems, and environmental change (PSE) strategies, these approaches support communities with the goal of making healthy options the default options.  5-4-3-2-1 Go! public education remains a foundation of what we do as a consortium, but it is now squarely supported by environmental change solutions that help families to achieve these recommendations more easily.  Our Healthy Places initiative is firmly rooted in the promotion of PSE strategies.

As the decade progressed, new research also emerged indicating that our initial focus on the three to five year old caused us to miss important opportunities to start prevention early in life.  An important study by Elsie Taveras showed that weight gain in the first six months of life was more predictive of weight at age 3 than was weight at birth.  Staff and partners began to look at emerging approaches across the country to reach children from “day 1” and even reach their parents during or just before pregnancy.  Breastfeeding emerged as an important strategy that we needed to support, and a focus on childcare institutions as a key context for obesity prevention solidified.  We created the Early Childhood Working Group to guide the consortium in these new enterprises. 

More and more science continues to emerge about the role that access to unhealthy foods and beverages plays in the obesity epidemic – that improving access to healthy options was necessary but not sufficient if we were really going to succeed at reducing childhood obesity rates in Chicago.  Following the lead of national organizations, we have begun to look at effective approaches to reducing the “at-your fingertip” access to foods and beverages high in calories from fat and sugar but low in nutritional value and to partnering with childcare, schools, workplaces, and city government to strike a better balance between access to healthier and less healthy foods and beverages.  In a similar vein, the field of obesity prevention practitioners has begun to look to non-traditional partners for increasing access to safe opportunities for physical activity. This involves partnering with land use planners, transportation professionals, and the business sector to increase access to parks, playgrounds, safe streets, and sidewalks where people, and especially children, can walk, run, ride, and engage in other forms of activity. 

Throughout this tenth anniversary year, we have been taking stock, asking questions, and doing some serious strategic thinking.  We have had three retreats involving staff, leadership, and national expert advisors to explore where the data and evidence suggest we must go in the coming decade.  We have gathered feedback from the consortium along the way through various means to ensure that these emerging plans are grounded in the experience and lessons learned of the many partners that make CLOCC what it is – a thriving, ever-growing national model for comprehensive, community-based childhood obesity prevention.  All of this information has been sifted and sorted, and it is the basis for our planning for the next decade.  New approaches to public education, refined strategies for policy and environmental change, innovative partnerships beyond the traditional obesity prevention advocates and practitioners, a strengthening focus on early childhood approaches, and effective methods for reducing access to and promotion of unhealthy foods and beverages will all be part of this next decade of work.  And, as ever, we will remain open to new ideas, emerging research and evidence, and the increasing collection of local and national best practices so the next decade is grounded in the many successes and lessons of our past, but also full of yet uncharted and endless possibility.  We are putting the final touches on a “blueprint for accelerating progress in childhood obesity prevention in Chicago,” and we are very excited to present it at the December 6 Quarterly Meeting.   We look forward to unveiling our plans with you, the culmination of this year of reflection and information gathering.  And we are inspired by the emerging vision of what we can do together in 2013 and beyond to achieve them!

Posted in 10th anniversary, 5-4-3-2-1 Go!, early childhood, food access, healthy places, history | Leave a comment

Making Connections: Ten Years of Unique Partnerships

Adam Becker

by Adam Becker, PhD, MPH, Executive Director

Welcome to the third quarter of our 10th anniversary year!  This quarter, we are focusing on one of the things that makes our consortium truly unique – the innovative partnerships that help us to span professional and geographical boundaries and take a holistic approach to confronting the childhood obesity epidemic in Chicago and beyond. 

In addition to the community-based organizations we highlighted last quarter, CLOCC also includes other segments of our community that are very engaged in our work and bring their own unique perspective.  These include our clinical, school, corporate, and advocacy partners.  From CLOCC’s beginning back in 2002, we recognized the importance of these segments and the importance of engaging them as we built our consortium.  In fact, the Clinical Practices, Government Policies and Programs, and School Systems Working Groups are among the original working groups from those early days!

The clinical perspective has always been a significant part of CLOCC’s focus and make-up.  Our founder, Dr. Katherine Kaufer Christoffel, was a pediatrician on staff at the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago (formerly Children’s Memorial Hospital).  Her vision for the consortium grew out of her daily experience in her clinical practice – seeing increasing numbers of obese patients in the Nutrition Clinic she also founded.  Being based at Lurie Children’s meant that we were immersed and well-versed in the clinical significance of this epidemic. 

Also from the beginning, we recognized that we could not address childhood obesity without significant engagement with local neighborhood schools and Chicago Public Schools as a district.  Children spend a significant percentage of their day in schools, eat at least one and sometimes as many as three meals a day on school grounds, and thus schools are ideal places to educate children about healthy eating and physical activity and create daily opportunities for them to practice healthy behaviors.  Our partnership with Chicago Public Schools extends all the way back to 2003, when we worked with school nurses to gather student body mass index (BMI) data using the Illinois Child Health Examination Forms submitted by every child at school entry.  This project led to a significant event in CLOCC’s history – the release of the first-ever prevalence data for Chicago children ages 3 – 7 in December of 2003.  This release, which was front-page news in the city, alerted Chicagoans that the obesity rate among these young children in Chicago was 2 ½ times the national average, and it put CLOCC “on the map.”  This marked the beginning of a very productive relationship with CPS, and they remain engaged in CLOCC in very important ways.  In fact, one of the major pillars of our Healthy Places project involves a partnership with CPS and Healthy Schools Campaign to promote school wellness and help CPS schools achieve “gold status” in the HealthierUS School Challenge.  Over the years, we have also worked with charter schools, Head Start centers, and other settings where children learn and play, and these environments continue to be a significant focus in our work. 

The corporate sector is a group whose active engagement in CLOCC generates a lot of interest.  CLOCC established the Corporate Advisory Committee (CAC) in 2004.  The CAC provides an opportunity for CLOCC and for-profit leaders to understand and learn from each other regarding the challenges and opportunities for obesity prevention from a unique perspective.  The CAC also gives corporations a place at the table to explore and implement obesity prevention strategies using their unique skills and resources.  We understood early on that the corporate sector has a role to play, and we have relied on their vision, expertise, and enthusiasm to tackle this problem over the years.  The CAC supported the work that went into creating our public education message, 5-4-3-2-1 Go!®, and they continue to support our efforts to spread the message throughout the city and state by helping to fund training, outreach, and educational materials.  These relationships are not without challenges as public health and for-profit priorities are not always exactly “in sync,” but we remain committed to active engagement and cross-learning and firmly believe that all organizations have a role to play if we are truly going to turn the tide on childhood obesity in Chicago and across the nation. I want to take this opportunity to especially thank our 10th Anniversary Sponsor, BlueCross and BlueShield of Illinois, whose generous support is making special 10 year anniversary activities possible.  You can read more about these activities here.

Our policy and advocacy work brings together the efforts of multiple sectors to make sure that children (and the adults that care for them) have opportunities to eat healthy and be physically active where they live, work, learn, and play.  Policy and advocacy work is one of the original cornerstones of CLOCC’s work.  In 2005, our efforts resulted in the adoption of Public Act 093-0966, which created the Illinois Childhood Obesity Study and Prevention Fund.  Also at that time, we convened over 80 stakeholder organizations to create the Illinois Childhood Obesity Prevention Consensus Agenda, resulting in five legislative bills whose passage we supported, with four of them being adopted as Public Acts.  These acts put tighter parameters on physical education waivers that schools could seek, added a nutrition and physical activity agenda to the mandate of the Illinois Early Learning Council, created an Illinois Food Policy Council, and created the state mechanism for disseminating federal safe routes to school funds.  In 2006, CLOCC established the City of Chicago Inter-Departmental Task Force on Childhood Obesity (IDTF), led by the Chicago Department of Public Health.  Originally comprised of four city agencies, the IDTF has grown to include 11 city agencies, all working together to address the childhood obesity epidemic as a city by deploying resources in a coordinated way. 

These details just scratch the surface of all the ways that our consortium has engaged diverse partners from multiple sectors in Chicago and beyond.  And strong diverse partners is exactly what our consortium will continue to depend on as we look toward the work of the fourth and final quarter of this remarkable celebration of our 10 years together!  Look for a new post from me in October when I will talk about CLOCC’s vision for the future.  With a decade under our belts as a consortium focused on the childhood obesity epidemic, what do we think the next ten years should look like?  Our fourth quarter activities will focus on what promises to be an exciting and challenging future.  Talk to you again soon!

Posted in 10th anniversary, clinical, corporate, history, policy/advocacy, schools | Leave a comment

Catching Up With the Go Team

From 2006 – 2008, CLOCC ran a pilot program where we trained high school students from across the city to become members of the “Go Team,” a group charged with teaching the 5-4-3-2-1 Go!® message to young children across the city by leading them in games and activities.  Over 25 high school students served as Go Team members over the two years, and they presented the message to over 5,000 children throughout Chicago.   Recently, as part of our 10th anniversary celebration, we caught up with four of our alumni to find out what they are up to and to hear about their memories of the Go Team experience.

Ivan Zavala

Ivan Zavala     Ivan Zavala     Taste of Chicago

Ivan Zavala, a graduate of Kelly High School, was the only Go Team member to participate in the project from beginning to end.  He is now 20 years old and a second-year student at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in Chicago working toward becoming a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine.   Ivan credits his experience in Go Team with giving him a foundation in health and starting him on a path that has led him to his interest in alternative medicine.  He enjoyed his time with Go Team and its focus on teaching young children.  “I like the commitment of Go Team to educate kids,” he stated.  “We have an epidemic of childhood obesity and modern disease.  I like that we went to the kids because kids are the foundation to the future.  This nation is the tree and the kids are the root, and if you water the root, the tree will be prosperous.”  Ivan is committed to healthy choices in his own life, sharing, “I take a walk every day, and I always follow the five fruits and vegetables a day recommendation.  I have developed a taste for them – my palate has changed!”

Click on the video below to hear Ivan share one of his favorite Go Team memories:

Jamal Nelson

Jamal Nelson    WYCC Interview     Jamal Nelson

Jamal Nelson, a graduate of Robeson High School, is now 20 years old and a sophomore at Knox College in Galesburg, IL, majoring in education and literature.   He plans to become a teacher and to pursue his interests in writing and art.  Jamal credits his Go Team experience with giving him more confidence, stating, “Go Team had a big effect on me.  It was my first job – having that kind of responsibility.  Being in front of people and having to lead – that was my first experience like that ever.”  Go Team was also Jamal’s first experience being around young children.  “It was fun seeing the kids’ face – they enjoyed everything we were doing.  I miss that – the enjoyment.  I found out that kids can laugh and have fun and play around with me, and I became freer about playing with them.  They were all having fun and smiling.  I never thought I would have the ability to be that personable with young kids.  I really enjoyed that.”

Jamal’s favorite Go Team memory is of his very first event as a member of the team: “One of the best memories I have was actually the first day that I started.  We were at this preschool in Little Village.  I remember freaking out before I even started.   I was sitting there and trying to get myself ready to do this.  I’m like, ‘I know what I’m going to say, I know what I’m going to say,’ and then, as soon as all the kids came out, there were so many of them.  I stood there and thought, ‘Oh my God.  I’m not ready to do this.’ I looked at my teammates, and they are looked at me like, ‘Calm down.  You’re all right.’  And I thought, ‘You could tell me that but I’m not going to be able to do that.’  And then they pretty much throw me out there and say, ‘Do what we just did.  You know what to do.’  And I remember when they first let me talk, and I just started doing it.  I don’t know how, I don’t know what in my body let me do it, but as soon as they gave me the floor, I was able to conduct the event just like they did it.  As scared as I was, I was able to do it.  And then they all said, ‘Good job, good job – you know what you’re doing.’ The reason why that is such a good memory of mine is because I just remember being in front of so many kids and my first-ever experience of talking in front of a big crowd and just accomplishing it.  It was something I never thought I could do, and I did it – not just for the members on the team but also for myself.  The first day – that’s what I’m always going to remember.”

Keanna Johnson

Keanna Johnson    Keanna Johnson    Keanna Johnson

Keanna Johnson, a graduate of the Chicago Math and Science Academy, is now 21 years old and attending school studying elder-care nursing and home assistance.  She is also the mother of a three-year-old daughter, who Keanna is raising to follow the 5-4-3-2-1 Go! recommendations.   Keanna enjoyed her time in Go Team and particularly liked meeting other high schoolers who shared the same interests as she did.  Some of the information she learned about barriers to healthy eating as a Go Team member has resonated with her now that she is a mom.  “I realized that although this is a good message to send out, it can also be an expensive message depending on the neighborhood you live in. I try to keep my family healthy, but trying to keep the refrigerator filled with fruits, vegetables, and dairy products can put a dent in my pocket.  I also remember learning in Go Team that, depending on the neighborhood you live in, the prices of the healthy food can vary, and I noticed that is true.”  Keanna’s favorite Go Team memory is about the team spreading the word about 5-4-3-2-1 Go!: “The memory that stands out is the thought of a group of young people travelling all around Chicago together to promote healthy eating and physical activity to children.  That just really stands out to me.”

Deonta Blandin

Deonta Blandin     Deonta Blandin    

Deonta Blandin, a graduate of Al Raby High School, is now 21 years old and a student at Wright College in Chicago.  He is also a courier with FedEx and the father of a two-year-old son.  Like fellow parent Keanna, he is also following the 5-4-3-2-1 Go! recommendations at home, sharing, “I still use the fun tips and facts we learned about a healthy lifestyle in Go Team.  We buy more fruits and vegetables at home and keep active as a family.”    Deonta liked the flexibility of the message, noting, “I liked that the message wasn’t just for a specific person, but for everyone of all ages – kids, teens, adults, parents, and grandparents.”  He found his time in Go Team “a  life changing experience,” and felt that it would be great if the Go Team reach went even further than it did, stating, “We did a lot of events that I wish we were still doing.  It was what the city needed, and I think it is what our country needs.”  Deonta has several favorite Go Team memories:  “I just remember the smiles and laughter on the kids’, teens’, and adults’ faces when we challenged them, how most people caught on quickly to what we were teaching. I remember being part of the team – brainstorming, being educated also, doing interviews, and making videos.  We had a great pact, and we were a great Go Team!”

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DePaul Students Enhance Evaluation, Schools, and Advocacy Work at CLOCC

DePaul University sign

by Elizabeth Katta, Meredith Jones, and Carolyn Jillson, Guest Bloggers

For the past two years, CLOCC has served as a 9-month practicum site for Master of Public Health students from DePaul University. After participating in an application and interview process, the students are matched with a position and site supervisor. This year, we hosted three talented students: Elizabeth Katta, Evaluation Intern; Meredith Jones, Schools Intern; and Carolyn Jillson, Advocacy Programs Intern. We are very grateful for their contribution to our work and their reflections below demonstrate the experience was also meaningful for each student.

Elizabeth Katta – As CLOCC’s Research and Evaluation intern, I was excited to see how a data driven organization conducts research and shares its results with Chicago partners. Working with Dr. Maryann Mason, Community and Evaluation Research Director, and Sarah Welch, Evaluation Manager, provided me the opportunity to take part in various activities within the Consortium, including data collection, community trainings, and organizational meetings. One of my favorite experiences was a SOPLAY (System for Observing Play and Leisure Activity in Youth) training at the Chicago Children’s Museum at Navy Pier. Sarah, Becca Calendo (CLOCC’s Health Educator) and I demonstrated a simple method to quantify activity in enclosed spaces. The fun, interactive activity demonstrated the Consortium’s dedication to providing useful services to their community partners. The bulk of my time at CLOCC was spent collecting data for my Capstone thesis, centered on an evaluation of CLOCC’s first breastfeeding study with the PCC Wellness clinic in the Austin community. I was able to see how community-based research is conducted as well have an opportunity to exercise my developing public health skills. My practicum time was invaluable because of these opportunities, and I hope to build upon the skills that CLOCC has helped me develop.

Meredith Jones – Serving as the School Systems Intern at CLOCC over the past year has afforded me the opportunity to understand the challenges and triumphs Chicago schools, teachers, principals, and PE teachers experience in sustaining a healthy classroom. Specifically through the Healthy Teacher Network, I enhanced practical skills such as event coordination and organized networking, evaluative skills when constructing instruments for program and workshop evaluation, and data collection and analysis as I compiled and streamlined large amounts of data on schools, individual teachers, and Chicago communities. Getting to know the structure and admirable objectives of the Healthy Teacher Network , which provides an environment conducive to teacher training and the exchange of valuable ideas for educators to use in their classrooms, will aid in my practice as a public health practitioner concerned with examining the structural determinants of health and coming to solutions for my community. The highlight of my time with CLOCC and the School Systems Working Group was the opportunity to interact directly with Chicago teachers who are passionate about implementing health-based strategies like physical activity breaks and nutrition education in their classrooms in order to improve the lives of their students. Their energy and devotion to the Healthy Teacher Network and CLOCC’s mission is truly contagious and emphatic.

Carolyn Jillson – I have really enjoyed working with CLOCC for my practicum at DePaul. I worked with Christine Bozlak, CLOCC’s Advocacy Program Manager, who provides technical assistance to the City of Chicago Inter-Departmental Task Force on Childhood Obesity (IDTF). I worked with CLOCC and IDTF to create a business plan for an IDTF Wellness Campus, a community-level intervention to coordinate and improve programing to improve health outcomes in neighborhoods with an especially high prevalence of childhood obesity. I found this project challenging, in that it required a big picture vision while I had to stay focused on the limitations of what is actually feasible. I learned a great deal about environmental approaches to complex health problems. Through this project I also became more familiar with a variety of governmental agency programs and partnerships and I was encouraged by the variety of effective and innovative programs and services currently being implemented in Chicago.

Thanks to our great DePaul practicum students for your enthusiasm, dedication, and hard work!  For more information on the Master of Public Health program at DePaul University, visit their website.

Posted in evaluation, guest blogger, healthy teacher network, policy/advocacy, schools | Leave a comment