Category Archives: reflections

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!

Catching Up With the Go Team

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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!”

Crossing Oceans and Moving Mountains: Reflections from CLOCC’s Founder

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Katherine Kaufer Christoffel

Katherine Kaufer Christoffel

by Katherine Kaufer Christoffel, MD, MPH, Founder and Medical and Research Director 

At the CLOCC holiday dinner this year, I had the chance to present a short talk to reflect on and celebrate nine years of CLOCC. I shared thoughts on how CLOCC went from the twinkle of an idea of mine to the impressive force for change that now involves the many individuals and organizations in the consortium.  Here are some highlights, which may be of interest to the broad range of people who are interested in CLOCC and its work. 

The theme I used was ‘crossing oceans and moving mountains’, reflecting both my meandering path and its lessons, and also the path that CLOCC has taken: to create CLOCC’s broad coalition, we have had to cross boundaries as forbidding as oceans.

My journey started a few years after WWII, when I was born in NYC to two immigrants from Eastern Europe, who crossed oceans in their childhoods to reach a new life and who were actively committed to education and social justice. I was raised in Stuyvesant Town in Manhattan, a kind of urban suburb with a lot of green space and no through traffic.  I had a fine education in the NY public schools, and then in college and medical school.  Much of what I know about ground-up policy change was learned in anti-war activism in Boston during college and the years that followed. That work required base-building and coordination of effort around the campus and around the country. It taught me about compromise and how it is unwise to be too sure about things, as there is always much to learn and history has a way of showing those who are certain to be fools. 

Those early years taught me lessons that I later applied to CLOCC. I learned that oceans can be crossed, life’s obstacles can be overcome, mountains of injustice can be identified and moved. That it takes many to achieve important goal. The successes of the civil rights and anti-war movements taught me boldness and optimism. 

It was when I entered medical school that I dedicated myself specifically to health and health promotion.  My choice of pediatrics was made because I was sure that caring for children would always remain compelling and optimistic.  It was and it has been a pleasure and privilege working with children and families. I am humbled and always will be by the welcome granted to me to enter the private space that children share with their adults. The physical exams are intimate, of course, but in many ways that is the least of it. To be of help, I had to learn how families work, hour by hour, week by week, year by year. People trusted me to pry and spend time with them to learn about them. To cross the ocean that divided us. My attention gradually turned to problems related to primary calorie imbalance, both malnutrition and obesity, and this became my clinical focus for decades. 

After residency, I began my public health studies. This took me beyond a purely clinical focus, and on to research. The research ultimately led to advocacy, particularly related to injury prevention, and most particularly to firearm injury prevention.  I learned many lessons from that work and its challenges and successes, and these informed the design of CLOCC.  Some memorable ones are these:

  • Partner with others who have complementary work preferences and skills.
  • Understand your limited perspective.
  • Remember that many things can’t be controlled.  
  • Work in teams, which achieve the most and provide perspective. 

In terms of oceans and mountains, this phase taught me not to stop at the oceans (between medicine and other realms), to take the measure of the mountains being moved and plan appropriately (when needed, audaciously), and to take a long view.  

When evidence of the obesity epidemic showed up in my examining room, I saw that protecting kids from this scourge requires approaches well beyond what can be offered in the clinic. This was clearly a very big mountain indeed, spanning many areas of life and unjustly affecting the most those most in need. I took its measure and concluded that what was needed was a very comprehensive approach, with a focus on primary prevention and so an emphasis on young children. 

What I proposed to funders was a multi-sector coalition that would address issues at multiple social levels, from patients to families to communities to society and policy. Chicago was fortunate that the Otho S.A. Sprague Memorial Institute invested in this early, when it was still an idea, and then for several years. With the effort of many and the support of numerous funders, CLOCC today connects regularly with over 1,200 organizations and over 3,500 individuals.   Led by two extraordinary Executive Directors—Matt Longjohn and Adam Becker—and working in every social sector, CLOCC staff and partners have really built something remarkable!    Our experience together confirms that the lessons I learned in other arenas—about oceans and mountains, audacity and optimism—are applicable in this one. 

CLOCC has some big accomplishments that are worth savoring, including (in no particular order): 

  • This month saw CLOCC’s 36th Quarterly Meeting!  Each one draws around 150 or more participants and is remarkable in its diversity.
  • Chicago is home to the award-winning Inter-Departmental Task Force on Childhood Obesity (IDTF), midwifed by CLOCC, led by the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH), and now including 12 city agencies.
  • CLOCC’s healthy lifestyle message, once a dream, is the well-established 5-4-3-2-1 Go!.  It has been translated into several languages, is widely taught and used across Chicagoland, and is a living tool in 49 states and several nations around the world.
  • CLOCC, under the leadership of Maryann Mason, CLOCC’s Community Research and Evaluation Director, developed a novel way to use school health forms to measure obesity prevalence in school kids. We documented that 26% were obese at school entry in 2003 and later that this rate had fallen to 23% in 2008, showing the power of the coordinated obesity prevention approach that CLOCC built.
  • Healthy Places is the Chicago obesity prevention project funded by the federal Communities Putting Prevention to Work Program. CLOCC manages it, as the bona fide agent for the City, working closely with CDPH and other city agencies and with community groups. This project is meeting ambitious goals in areas that include increased access to healthy foods, improved safe use of parks and streets, healthy school environments, and increased breastfeeding support in the city’s 19 maternity hospitals.
  • CLOCC has been tapped to share its experience with other cities, with researchers at NIH, with faith and community leaders gathered by the White House, and many others. People around the country know CLOCC and notice what we do. 

In these and other ways that continue to increase and expand, CLOCC consistently crosses oceans to share practical approaches to moving the obesity mountain. Of course there is much still to be done, but we can already be very proud of what CLOCC is and has already done!

I hope the wonderful CLOCC team will always be audacious and optimistic, like the original twinkle of the CLOCC idea.  And I hope that everyone in CLOCC will remember, in this important, collaborative work, the three things that form the heart of all work in public health, which I learned from a colleague who learned it from a colleague … and now some of you are learning them from me.  The 3 Ps are easy to remember:  Patience, Persistence … and a sense of humor.