2020 poised to be a year of revitalization and renewal
By Adam Becker, PhD, MPH
Executive Director, Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children
As we embark on a new year and (some would say) a new decade, exciting happenings are afoot for the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children (CLOCC). While 2019 was a year of exploration of the role that social influencers of health play in obesity, 2020 will be a year of action on those influencers! Increasing attention to health equity in Chicago and Illinois, as we welcomed a new Mayor and Governor with agendas focused on racial, social, and economic justice, aligns well with our ongoing efforts to practice obesity prevention with an equity lens.
Our 2019 quarterly convenings helped us increase our understanding of the impact of “upstream factors,” such as immigration status and housing instability on nutrition and physical activity, as well as the relationships among obesity and other prevalent public health challenges (e.g., trauma and mental health, climate change). CLOCC staff focused on identifying new partners and inviting them to the obesity prevention table, while continuing our established work to improve health outcomes for Chicago children and build better places for them to live, learn and play.
We are proud of the progress we made in 2019 on strategies that have been at the center of CLOCC’s obesity prevention over our 17-year history. In our community engagement work, with continued support from Kohl’s Cares®, CLOCC executed the second year of a multi-sector outreach initiative, Activating Neighborhood Environments for Health and Wellness (Chicago ANEHW), designed to integrate the 5-4-3-2-1 Go!® healthy lifestyle message into Chicago Park District summer camp programming. Working in Hamilton Park on the South Side, Loyola Park on the North Side, and Dvorak Park on the West Side, CLOCC built upon first-year learnings while working to provide Park District staff with 5-4-3-2-1 Go! tools to rally their summer campers around healthy food and fitness. CLOCC also partnered with the parks to host cooking demonstrations and family yoga nights throughout the summer. An out-of-home marketing campaign placed the 5-4-3-2-1 Go!! message front and center on nearby CTA platforms, in park facilities and on local billboards. The Consortium partnered with Kohl’s Cares and Lurie Children’s Injury Prevention and Research Center to continue a turnkey practice of providing bike helmets to summer campers, with additional bike helmet distribution provided at local community events. In total, 950 helmets were distributed over the summer. Highlights of the Kohl’s-funded summer camp work included field trips to Kilbourn Park, where campers had hands-on experience with the Park’s vegetable garden, and then – in between a full slate of field day activities – proceeded to make their own salsa from scratch.
Included in the Kohl’s-funded work was the opportunity to conduct walkability assessments tied to the three neighborhood parks. These assessments sought to measure the safety and accessibility of routes to the parks for community residents. CLOCC staff teamed up with three anchor organizations, and engaged nine organizations in total, to conduct the assessments. CLOCC staff also worked as technical assistance providers for the Healthy Chicago 2.0 seed grant projects that focused on increasing walkability in neighborhoods working on equitable transit-oriented development through the Elevated Chicago initiative. In total, over the past year, CLOCC has advised or coordinated a total of eight neighborhood walkability assessments, covering six different communities and training over 150 people.
Midway through the year, CLOCC partnered with Westside United and hired a community food access manager to support food access strategies in 10 West Side communities. Strategies include food pantry support to expand the capacity of the local emergency food system, an advocacy agenda to support food policy, supporting neighborhood schools to meet nutrition education required through the local school wellness policy, developing a fruit and vegetable voucher program to subsidize fresh produce purchases for patients of West Side United hospital partners, and increasing healthy food retail. This new role also supports Lurie Children’s Hospital’s food insecurity initiative, comprised of an on-site food pantry at Lurie Children’s Uptown Clinic and planning for a home-delivery program for food insecure patient families.
Joining us mid-year, CLOCC’s new health educator, bolstered by our program staff, hit the ground running in 2019. The team was ever-present in local schools, community centers and parks to deliver key messages to children, parents, educators and other health advocates. The training presentations themselves were updated with new data and best practices, while receiving a refreshed look and feel. The Consortium hosted 25 different 5-4-3-2-1 Go!! and fiveSMART trainings in 2019, supporting more than 75 unique organizations and training over 300 individuals. Our team was also able to provide four of those trainings in Spanish, in the Belmont-Cragin, Lower West Side, Little Village and Gage Park communities.
CLOCC’s efforts to support the Chicago Public School system through alignment with Healthy CPS have never been stronger. In the 2018-19 academic year, 57 schools supported by the Consortium’s +Network increased their compliance with Healthy CPS, with 28 +Network-supported schools achieving Healthy CPS status. Over 30% of all schools achieving Healthy CPS status were affiliated with the +Network. The Consortium’s obesity prevention efforts within CPS carried over into additional, broad-based work, as CLOCC teamed with Lurie Children’s Healthy Communities, the CPS Offices of Student Health and Wellness, Social Emotional Learning, and Student Protections & Title IX, to launch the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) Model to CPS partners. Supporting WSCC aligns with CLOCC’s integration of social influencers of health into traditional approaches to obesity prevention and our direct support of three neighborhood schools (in Belmont Cragin, South Chicago, and Humboldt Park) are serving as a model for implementation of WSCC across the district – a goal we have for the future of health and wellness in Chicago schools.
We will be building on all this exciting work as we look ahead to 2020. This month, CLOCC staff will meet with the Consortium’s Executive Committee to review the results of our multi-year exploration of the social influencers of health. Questions to be answered include: “How will our expanded understanding of the causes and influencers of obesity be shared with the CLOCC network?” and “How will we integrate these ideas into our collective work?” In March, we will share answers to these questions at our first full network convening of 2020, during which we will announce the re-establishment of several CLOCC Interest Groups or Working Groups to help us shape our approaches to intervening at the intersections of these social influencers and obesity. I highly encourage the network to keep a close eye on forthcoming communications and look for opportunities to join us as we move from exploration to action in the social influencers of health arena. Also in 2020, we will select three new communities to engage in Chicago ANEHW; continue to advance neighborhood walkability as a component of Chicago’s Vision Zero initiative to eliminate traffic fatalities by 2026, and continue to integrate obesity prevention strategies into Chicago’s new public health agenda, Healthy Chicago 2025.
We look forward to collaborating with CLOCC network partners in a variety of ways in 2020 and we are eager to learn about all the exciting work our partners will be taking on. We hope to see many of you in March when we launch our social influencers of obesity action plan. Please continue to send us your thoughts, your question, and your stories of success at firstname.lastname@example.org. Wishing you all the best for a healthy, happy, productive, and equitable 2020!!