Category Archives: evaluation

Reflections on 2013

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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!

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

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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 – or

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.

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

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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.

A Cool Evaluation Project at the Shedd Aquarium

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Sarah Welch

by Sarah Welch MPH, Evaluation Manager

Opened May 22, 2009, the Polar Play Zone at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago is the museum’s first permanent exhibit designed specifically with children (aged 2-7) in mind.  The Shedd Aquarium had designed the Polar Play Zone to be interactive and interesting to children as well as encourage physical activity while in the exhibit.  It includes four different areas for children to explore: (1) The Shallow Seas – where kids can play in tidal pools, touch sea stars and visit with sea otters; (2) The Deep Ocean – an underwater viewing area of the dolphin habitat; (3) The Icy South – the penguin habitat with a play area where kids can dress up like penguins and climb and slide up and down rocks, imitating the birds; and (4) The Icy North – where kids can learn about beluga whales and other cold water creatures while playing with a submarine.

Over the summer of 2010, CLOCC staff evaluated the physical activity levels of children visiting the Polar Play Zone as well as measured general activity levels of children visiting other parts of the museum.  Accelerometers, devices that measure the amount and intensity of movement, were worn by children between the ages of 3 and 7 during their visit to the museum.  This gave us information on how active children are while visiting the museum in general.  To see how active children were in the Polar Play Zone, we used an observation method called SOPLAY to count how many children were sitting or standing still, walking, or running while in the exhibit.  Using these two methods, we were able to gather information on activity levels of children visiting various parts of the museum as well as the Polar Play Zone in particular.  This information will help us know if museums provide a good source of physical activity for children in addition to their educational benefits. 

The data from this project are still being analyzed, so no results are ready at this time.  When they are finished, we will be sure to share them.  For more information on this project or CLOCC’s other evaluation activities, contact me at 312-573-7767 or

Summer intern Justine Bandstra and I dress the part in the Penguin Habitat. Justine assisted in the data collection.