By Adam Becker, PhD, MPH
Executive Director, Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children
As we stand on the eve of CLOCC’s 15th year, it is a good time to reflect on the myriad accomplishments of our Consortium. If the best predictor of the future is the past, then I am confident that, together, our public health community will rise to meet the challenges we may face in 2017.
Over the past year, our partners have tirelessly and passionately fought to increase opportunities for all children in Chicago to have healthy and active lives. We have continued to advocate for environments that support healthy eating and active living where children live, learn, and play. We also continue to educate Chicagoans using our evidence-based healthy lifestyle messages: 5-4-3-2-1 Go!® and fiveSMART™. Health equity has been a centerpiece of these efforts. While much remains to be done, and the shifting political landscape leaves us guessing to some extent as to where our energies will be needed most in the near future, it is important and humbling to consider all that we have achieved together:
- From the Council chamber of the Cook County building to the Senate floor in Springfield, our partners were advocacy all-stars in 2017, advocating on behalf of children and families across the city and state. After several years of attempts, the Healthy Local Foods Incentives fund – which would double the value of SNAP dollars at local farmers’ markets – rode a wave of support and sailed through the Illinois House and Senate. Governor Rauner issued an amendatory veto but, ultimately, the legislation received a second round of support and passed the House and Senate in November without opposition. As the New Year arrives, we await the conclusion of this bill’s journey and eagerly anticipate the Governor’s signature.
- The Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) proposal, which would levy a penny-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), remains on the radar of Illinois legislators as a viable source of revenue to support critical health and public health services and programs. It seems we may be near the national tipping point as more communities across the country consider or have already passed similar taxes. Advocates and leaders in Cook County should take great pride in becoming the largest U.S. jurisdiction to approve a sweetened-beverage tax, with a small portion of the revenues going to chronic disease prevention.
- CLOCC continues to support hospitals working to achieve Baby Friendly status and we celebrated this year as Advocate Illinois Masonic became the third Chicago labor and delivery center to earn the prestigious designation. Baby Friendly Hospitals build our city’s capacity for supporting breastfeeding from the moment of delivery, and an additional 11 hospitals in the City are currently in the Baby Friendly pathway to designation.
- Efforts to support organizations and communities outside of the city limits continued with the expansion of the PICH-funded healthy corner store initiative in suburban Cook County. In corner stores throughout the region, the Cook County Health Department’s “Healthy Hot Spot” brand can be found pointing the way to fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy items in these small but important retail environments in communities that face healthy food access challenges. A geo-targeted mobile ad campaign and cooking demonstrations help build awareness among local residents about their nearby stores.
- CLOCC’s work within school systems moved into high gear with the re-introduction of the Food and Fitness Partner Network, a collection of health and wellness partners that support public schools to meet the requirements of the health and wellness policies at Chicago Public Schools. CLOCC now convenes this network on behalf of CPS and out of the network has emerged the “Plus Network.” This subset of food and fitness partners will support the schools they’re in as an overall school wellness partner, helping schools to meet their wellness goals and linking schools to other partners as needed. The Plus Network comes online in the new year.
- Built environment is often in the headlines with the steady and welcome addition of new parks and path systems throughout the City. In June, CLOCC reintroduced an enhanced Neighborhood Walkability Initiative (NWI) to help community organizations assess their surroundings and advocate for change where needed. A revised tool now includes indicators and strategies related to crime, violence, and safety as factors that contribute to or detract from community-level physical activity. CLOCC will be training and engaging community-based organization partners to participate in the NWI in 2017.
Through attendance at quarterly meetings, food access workshops, 5-4-3-2-1 Go!® and fiveSMART™ trainings, in answering advocacy calls and participating in the annual Blueprint Survey, our Consortium family continuously demonstrates a passion for changing the course of childhood obesity in Chicago. On behalf of CLOCC staff, I express our gratitude for your efforts to ensure that all children in Chicago and beyond can enjoy a healthy future and reach their full potential.
We wish you all a happy and healthy New Year!