Category Archives: Uncategorized

A New Identity for a New Chapter in Childhood Obesity Prevention

Posted on

A message from Adam Becker, PhD, MPH

For CLOCC, 2022 was a year of celebration, reflection, and direction setting for the future. The year culminated with our Winter Convening, where we celebrated 20 years together as a consortium. Dr. Sara Bleich, Director of Nutrition Security and Health Equity at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) was our keynote speaker, presenting on the newly unveiled National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. The agenda strategy is built around five pillars: improving food access, prioritizing nutrition in overall health, empowering consumers, supporting physical activity for all, and enhancing food and nutrition research. Meeting attendees watched a pre-recorded reflection from our founder, Dr. Kathy Christoffel, on the past and future of obesity prevention, and an emphasis on moving our focus further and further “upstream” to address root causes and create sustainable change. We presented our 20 Under 20 honorees while partners networked in person for the first time since 2019. It was an honor to recognize these emerging leaders and to be able to celebrate them. I hope you have been as inspired by them as I have as we shared their stories with you over the last few months in our newsletter.

CLOCC’s 20th happened at a time when the nation is looking at health and obesity through a different lens and when our own Patrick M. Magoon Institute for Healthy Communities (CLOCC’s home at Lurie Children’s since 2020) has strengthened the clinical community connection across many Lurie clinical divisions and public health programs. And so, in the second half of the meeting, I shared the results of a year-long strategic direction setting process to identify priorities for the future of Lurie Children’s work in obesity prevention. Many people contributed to this process, including representatives of neighborhood and citywide organizations, government partners, CLOCC’s Executive Committee and External Advisory Board, and 25 clinicians and staff from diverse areas of expertise across our hospital. Below, I present the results of these planning efforts. The future of our work on obesity at Lurie Children’s builds on CLOCC’s 20-year history. It also recognizes obesity as a symptom of a broader set of factors related to key social, environmental, economic, and political conditions that make nutrition and physical activity challenging for many children and their families. New and revised strategies also capitalize on the institutional strengths of Lurie Children’s Hospital.

We think about CLOCC’s core functions as “the three Cs:” Convening, Communicating, and Collaborating. Starting in 2023, the Magoon Institute will convene partners across all our programs under the broad theme of “social influencers of child health.” The convening will also provide our partners with opportunities to focus on specific content areas (e.g., nutrition, physical activity). The Magoon Institute will also launch a newsletter to communicate with partners across all the Institute’s networks – again, with a greater emphasis on the social influencers of the issues we work to address. Our collaboration with key partners in high priority neighborhoods and with statewide and national partners will continue – but will be led by staff in the newly-named “Food, Activity, and Nutrition” Initiatives (the FAN Team), which I will continue to lead. So, while we will sunset the name CLOCC and the convening and communicating solely organized around obesity prevention, Lurie Children’s commitment to addressing food access, nutrition security, physical activity, and child-focused environments will deepen and expand. Below are examples of strategies we will begin working on in 2023.

  • Strategies for Partners and Community Environments
    • Place-based approach in high priority neighborhoods, with a focus on environments and institutions, including schools and parks.
    • Disseminate fiveSMART and 5-4-3-2-1 Go! materials and curricula to help partners deliver our healthy lifestyle messages to their constituents
  • Strategies for Policy and Advocacy
    • Revise and rebrand Lurie Children’s “Policy Position on Obesity and Overweight Prevention in Children” to reflect current evidence and framing
    • Issue calls-to-action for policy related to food, activity, and nutrition and the institutions and environments that support them
  • Strategies for Patient and Family Support
    • Internal “Grand-Rounds” for Lurie Children’s clinical, programmatic, and operational staff to increase coordination and leverage resources across the institution
    • Develop and implement an “Extended Care Model” to connect specialty care, primary care, and community resources for management and prevention of chronic conditions influenced by nutrition and physical activity

I hope that you will recognize both our history as a consortium and our innovation as we look to the future in this set of strategies. We look forward to communicating with you via the Magoon Institute’s newsletter. We hope to see you at our convening in 2023 focused on social influencers of child health and, as always, we welcome your engagement in the work we will continue to do at Lurie Children’s to ensure that all children across Chicago and beyond have access to nutritious food, safe opportunities for physical activity they enjoy, and the ability to reach their full potential on a foundation of health and wellbeing.

On behalf of the new FAN Team, I wish you all a happy, safe, and healthy holiday season and we look forward to connecting with you in 2023.


Adam B. Becker, PhD, MPH

Addressing Food Insecurity: CLOCC’s Past and Present

Posted on

By Jennifer Marcisin, MPH, RDN, LDN, Community Food Access Manager

A nutritious diet is vital for chronic disease prevention and can help to reduce the incidence of leading causes of death and disability such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Eating healthy can be challenging if healthy foods are not accessible, available, or affordable. Improving food access throughout Chicago and Cook County has been a key strategy for CLOCC since our inception.

In CLOCC’s early years, we developed an initiative in West Town/Humboldt Park with the Puerto Rican Cultural Center and the Sinai Urban Health Institute called Community Organizing for Obesity Prevention in Humboldt Park (CO-OP HP). One of the primary goals for CO-OP HP was to enhance a food environment in which residents could easily find diverse, affordable, fresh produce. The Greater Chicago Food Depository’s “Produce Mobile” helped us deliver free produce on a regular basis. Growing Power’s “Market Basket” helped establish a produce purchasing program in which residents could purchase and pick up bags of produce weekly at PRCC. The PRCC moved the Market Basket pick-up to a local corner store and developed an arrangement with a local produce market to demonstrate the demand for fresh produce to local retailers. This was the early iteration of what became CLOCC’s Healthy Corner Store Initiative.

We were able to replicate this strategy with the federally funded Healthy Places initiative, part of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) program (2012-2014). CLOCC received $8.5M over two years on behalf of the City of Chicago and created a community intervention strategy that included Healthy Corner Stores. These funds enabled us to support partners in Humboldt Park, Englewood/West Englewood, and South Chicago to engage ~30 neighborhood stores and enhance the availability of fruits and vegetables in communities where childhood obesity rates were high and the local food retail environments were struggling.

The CDC replaced CPPW with a new initiative, Partnerships to Improve Community Health (PICH; 2014-17). CLOCC received PICH funding from the Cook County Department of Public Health to support corner store work in the west and south suburbs of Cook County, picking up on the suburban Healthy Corner Store initiative led by the Public Health Institute of Metropolitan Chicago in Cook County’s CPPW program – Healthy HotSpots. The Healthy Hotspot initiative increased availability of healthy foods in 25 corner stores. Through Healthy HotSpots community-based organizations in Blue Island, Cicero, Maywood, Harvey, Chicago Heights, Ford Heights, and Riverdale helped us recruit corner stores, assess healthy food availability, and work with owners to increase the number of healthy foods available and promote the items through in-store marketing materials, food tasting events, and a digital and social media marketing campaign, “Healthy Choices are Just Around the Corner.” In partnership with The Food Trust, we developed the Healthy Corner Store Toolkit for community-based organizations, as a how to guide for Healthy Corner Store Work. (Contact for details).

In addition to leading initiatives to support healthy food retail across Chicagoland, CLOCC developed a series of food access workshops to help build capacity among CLOCC Network partners to expand nutritious food access in their communities. In these workshops, convened from 2014-16, community organizations that were leading food access initiatives in the neighborhoods they served shared their models with other organizations interested in adapting the strategies. Workshops covered topics such as healthy corner stores and strategies for healthy food supply, healthy emergency food system strategies, and farmers’ market development and management.

In 2018, Lurie Children’s Hospital became one of the founding anchor institutions in West Side United (WSU). WSU is a collaborative of healthcare institutions and community-based organizations aiming to reduce the life expectancy gap between the Loop and West Side neighborhoods of Chicago by 50% by 2030. As a part of the collaborative, CLOCC’s team has played a key role in the WSU Food Strategy Working Group, which supports WSU’s neighborhood and physical environment impact areas. The group focuses on piloting new food initiatives, such as a Fruit and Vegetable Voucher Program (FVVP) and the Food Pantry Support initiative. The FVVP is currently piloting in Austin with distributions at three WSU hospital clinics and through nutrition programs hosted by Bethel New Life. The program provides participants with vouchers that they can redeem for half-off their produce purchases at Forty Acres Fresh Market or Top Box Foods.

As the WSU partner hospitals expand food insecurity screenings, the Working Group aims to connect more patients to food resources in their neighborhoods. The emergency food system and local food pantries are a critical resource for free, healthy food at the neighborhood level. Five of the WSU hospital partners have developed relationships with at least one West Side food pantry each to provide capacity-building support. The hospital partners offer the pantries assistance based on the individual pantry’s needs, including financial assistance, volunteer recruitment, food donations, and mental health screenings. The partnership ensures that West Side residents who seek healthcare at WSU hospitals are referred to a network of pantries that provide a variety of healthy food options and wrap around services. The Food Pantry Support initiative group also strives to provide nutrition education options at each pantry and has developed a nutrition education toolkit with resources for food pantries. The participating pantries and their hospital partners are:

Through the National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity, convened by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI, CLOCC supported strategies to enhance school food programs, increase healthy food marketing, and protect the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Through our membership in the Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity we have helped establish the Healthy Local Food Incentives Fund and advocated for improved nutrition requirements in licensed childcare centers and group homes across the state. We are proud to be a founding member of the City of Chicago’s Food Equity Council, continuing our efforts to ensure equitable access to nutritious food for all Chicagoans. The CLOCC network will continue to be a champion for the policies and programs to increase healthy food access at the local, City, State, and Federal levels.

Improving Walkability in Chicago Neighborhoods

Posted on

The NWAAT is now accessible on your phone

By Ruth Rosas, CLOCC Community Programs Coordinator

Equitable accessibility to pedestrian infrastructure is once again “in the news” as Illinois decides how it will spend $1.4B in federal funds for infrastructure improvements from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. CLOCC joined 50 additional advocacy groups from across Illinois in sending a letter to Governor Pritzker and Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Omer Osman, emphasizing the need to invest in projects that create a transportation system that is more equitable, sustainable, economically productive, safe, accessible, and affordable. Our hope is that some of these investments will support the types of Complete Streets projects that will make walking, rolling, and other forms of active transportation more feasible for Chicagoans, especially those in neighborhoods that have been historically overlooked in such investment decision-making.

Over the course of our twenty-year history, CLOCC has prioritized safe, active transportation infrastructure as a key strategy for supporting physical activity and promoting the health and wellness of children and families. We know that the communities in which we live and the physical environment around us can support or hinder our ability to be physically active. Additionally, we know that walking is an easy and low-cost way to be active throughout all stages of life, as well as an important way to access neighborhood amenities. To support walking as an important form of physical activity in Chicago communities where childhood obesity rates are high, CLOCC designed the Neighborhood Walkability and Accessibility Assessment Tool (NWAAT) and began the Neighborhood Walkability and Accessibility Initiative (NWAI) in neighborhoods throughout the City. The purpose of the Initiative is to increase walking as a form of physical activity for all Chicagoans through measures that address the safety and quality of the built environment and of transportation infrastructure. With the NWAAT, community members have been able to identify and address barriers to walking in their own neighborhoods.

The tool was designed to allow community members to walk together and explore the distinct parts of a Chicago city block. Residents learn the concepts of walkability, such as pedestrian right-of-way, infrastructure, safety, and design. The tool asks residents to collect data on their experience walking down a city block with 4 sections to assess: 1) each crosswalk at one intersection, 2) each side of one block, 2) review the area, 4) overall safety conditions of the block.

When the NWAI began in 2007, community groups would use one paper survey per group to discuss and collectively assess a block and its connected intersections. Each survey would take 30-45 minutes per block to complete. In 2009, we added an online data entry component. With this enhancement, communities were able to transfer their data from paper surveys to an online database and analyze their data more efficiently. In 2016, the tool was updated to include questions on accessibility, and evolved into the Neighborhood Walkability & Accessibility Assessment Tool, or NWAAT, as it is known today.

Today, we are excited to announce the latest iteration of the NWAAT. At the end of 2019, CLOCC partnered with the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) and Palenque Logan Square Neighborhood Association (Palenque LSNA), set out to create a mobile web application of the NWAAT that users can access from their own devices. Input and feedback from Palenque LSNA helped us refine the digital version of the tool. The development of this application was a necessary step to further facilitate the completion of walkability assessments by community members and allow more efficient access to the community’s own data. Groups who are advocating for infrastructure and other improvements are now able to view their data immediately and share their findings more easily. Along with updating the technology, we completed four focus groups with community groups and gathered feedback to update questions to include emerging concepts and social issues.

The technical process of developing this application was an exercise in authentic collaboration with many new and existing partners. We hosted a series of focus groups to review the questions on the walkability tool to ensure they were appropriate, relevant, ethical, and accessible. We focused on geographical differences in Chicago and invited our existing partners to give us feedback on their past experiences with using the NWAAT. We also brought in new groups and focused on issues of inclusivity of Black and brown Chicagoans, LGBTQIA+ individuals, and Chicagoans with disabilities. The conversations gave us information on how “walkability” is interpreted by people of diverse backgrounds and on what aspects of their environments made actively moving throughout their communities easy and difficult.

We partnered with CNT to craft an accessible and easy-to-use application. CNT also created a reporting tool that allows users to edit and view their results and CLOCC to see statistics and create data reports for communities and advocacy efforts. With the partnership of Palenque LSNA, we met with a group of residents who beta tested the application and gave feedback from their perspectives as users. With input from this group, the questions, interface, and reporting tool were updated to ensure ease and accessibility for all users.

Through this process, many people with diverse perspectives and experiences helped build a tool that exposes the root barriers to walkability and facilitates collection of qualitative and quantitative data. Compared to the previous iteration of the tool, individuals are now able to create an account, visualize their results on a map, answer questions, edit responses as needed, and see their results in real time using a smart phone or a tablet. This newly digitized tool and the data it provides will allow CLOCC staff to analyze data efficiently, view walkability issues on a map, and track changes over time in communities where the tool is used. Our goal was to create a walkability tool that not only provides CLOCC with data, but that puts data in the hands of community members that they can use to advocate for change in their neighborhoods and across the city.

To learn more about walkability or the Neighborhood Walkability & Accessibility Assessment Tool (NWAAT), please contact Ruth Rosas at or send a message to

Insights and Updates from CLOCC’s Winter Convening

Posted on

By Adam Becker, PhD, MPH 
Executive Director, Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children

On February 22, we held our Winter Convening – the first convening of the full CLOCC network since December 2020. This convening was the launch of our celebration of 20 years working together as a consortium. Because it was virtual, we had the opportunity to invite three speakers from across the U.S. who have a long-standing connection to CLOCC in one way or another to share with us the ways their organizations center food and physical activity in the context of some of today’s front-burner issues of health equity, racial justice, climate change, and COVID-19.

Current External Advisory Board member, Kelly Brownell, Distinguished Professor of Public Policy, presented on his work as Director of the World Food Policy Center ( and its featured research on how White supremacy is manifest in our nation’s food system. Megan Lott, Deputy Director of Healthy Eating Research, shared how this national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has supported recent explorations of the impact of COVID-19 on school meal programs and the critical food safety net. Healthy Eating Research funded CLOCC’s study of how voluntary improvements in physical activity and nutrition supports in licensed childcare could be adopted if they were required by the State of Illinois – a long-standing advocacy priority for our Consortium, which first came to fruition in 2014. Mary Story, Director of Healthy Eating Research is currently a member of CLOCC’s External Advisory Board as well. For more on this program’s work, see Ian Thomas, State and Local Program Director at America Walks, shared how his organization connects health inequities to present-day disparities in community walkability and mobility through national, state, and local policy around transportation, segregation, and even jaywalking. CLOCC’s relationship with Ian Thomas goes back to our involvement with the RWJF program, Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities, when he was with the PedNet Coalition of Columbia, MO. With support from HKHC’s national program office at Active Living by Design (led, at that time, by CLOCC EAB member Sarah Strunk), CLOCC partnered with Logan Square Neighborhood Association, Active Transportation Alliance (then, the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation), the Chicago Park District, and the Chicago Departments of Public Health and Transportation to focus attention on inequities in park access on Chicago’s west side. This early work became the foundation for some of today’s work on Complete Streets and Vision Zero that focuses on street infrastructure transportation policy around the city’s parks. We often share resources from America Walks ( in our bi-weekly newsletter, especially opportunities to join their Walking College activities.

Our convening didn’t only have a national perspective. Current partners, some historical and some new, shared some of the work they’ve been doing with CLOCC staff and partners to continue advancing healthy eating, physical activity, or both in community institutions. New CLOCC partner, Circle Urban Ministries described their engagement with West Side United’s Pantry Support Initiative (managed and coordinated by WSU and CLOCC staff) and CLOCC/WSU Community Food Access Manager, Jennifer Norsworthy, shared information about our emerging Fruit and Veggie Voucher Program in partnership with Bethel New Life. Both of these partner organizations are focused in the Austin neighborhood and CLOCC staff are continuing to explore ways to expand our support in Austin. Lauren Pett and Hannah Press from Chicago Public Schools presented with CLOCC’s Community and School Programs Manager, Erin Fisher, on our co-convening of the Food and Fitness Partner Network and the +Network – both of which focus on advancing health and wellness priorities in neighborhood schools. They shared information about how CLOCC partners could join these networks by contacting, submit an application to become a CPS Vendor, and have materials reviewed by CPS’s Materials Review Committee. I had the opportunity to co-present with Colleen Lammel Harmon from the Chicago Park District on our decades-long partnership and Colleen shared a variety of ways in which CLOCC partners could support health and wellness in neighborhood parks. Partners can run programs by becoming an official Chicago Park District Partner. They can run one-time wellness events if they apply for and receive a Permit, and they can connect with their local park staff or Park Advisory Councils (PAC) to advocate for health and wellness activities and programing in their parks.

This info-packed convening helped us kick off our year of celebration of 20 years by connecting CLOCC’s present to CLOCC’s past and sharing resources that will take CLOCC partners into our exciting future. And speaking of the future, I announced our exiting 20 Under 20 campaign in which we will recognize 20 of Chicago’s emerging leaders in nutrition, physical activity, obesity prevention, and social influencers of obesity. To learn more about the campaign and how YOU can nominate a bright future star, click here!

Finally, I announced that, in addition to our school-focused networks, we will be convening two working groups to focus with CLOCC staff on some very specific goals we have for the remainder of the calendar year. A Policy and Advocacy Working Group will meet quarterly. Participants will hear and share updates on key policy and advocacy priorities that align with CLOCC’s Policy Agenda. We will convene a Public Education and Message Dissemination Working Group to help guide the roll-out of two new curricula to support partners in sharing our 5-4-3-2-1 Go!™ and fiveSMART™ messages. 

To share with us your interest in these groups, and to let us know how you would feel about returning to in-person CLOCC convenings, please complete our input form here. 

We look forward to joining with you as we celebrate 20 years of work together and lay the foundation for 20 more. We look forward to seeing you at our next convening!

Challenges, Successes and a CLOCC Celebration

Posted on

By Adam Becker, PhD, MPH 
Executive Director, Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children

Dear partners and colleagues, welcome to 2022!

Those of you who have been counting may have realized that 2022 marks CLOCC’s 20th year as a childhood obesity prevention network. We have much planned to celebrate this important milestone, but I’ll get to that a bit further down… 2021 was another year of tremendous uncertainty and change. As COVID-19 rates rose, fell, and rose again, we all pivoted from virtual, to in-person, to blended programming and activities that allowed us sometimes to be in shared spaces and other times forced us back online. Through it all, CLOCC partners and staff worked valiantly to make available as much information and support as we could – for each other, and for the children and families who needed them. Advancing health equity continued to be at the forefront of our network’s efforts, with a focus on food insecurity, transportation equity, and upstream factors that influence nutrition and physical activity. The bad news is that 2022 seems to be starting out with similar challenges. The good news is that the tools and processes we built last year will allow us to be nimble and responsive as the ground continues to shift. Much has been shared in the news about the linkages between obesity and COVID-19, about the impact on kids of not having the structure of a school day to support good nutrition and physical activity, and about how the pandemic has eroded the financial status of so many families. The need to work on these issues continues – and the CLOCC staff is committed to helping you keep obesity prevention on the forefront of your efforts.

It is my honor and pleasure to sum up a few of the successes we’ve had over the past year, and to share some of what’s to come as we celebrate our network’s 20th anniversary. We conducted a partner survey to understand the usefulness of the COVID-related changes we made to our core functions of convening, communicating, and collaborating. Fifty percent of respondents reported using the CLOCC Healthy at Home page on our website, designed provide partners with messaging and interventions adapted to the virtual environment. On a scale of 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest), users reported an average score of 4.3 regarding how useful the page was for their work. When asked whether they clicked on the “News and Resources: COVID-19” section of our e-newsletter, 62.5% said they had. They rated the usefulness of this section to their work at an average of 4.14 on a scale of 1 to 5. While COVID-19, political and social unrest, and economic challenges continued to dominate, 75% of CLOCC partners maintained or increased their level of engagement with CLOCC’s resources.

Collaboration among CLOCC partners resulted in key policy and advocacy victories in 2021. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office established a Food Equity Council to advance a Food Equity Agenda and earmarked $10,000,000 in the city’s budget to implement food equity strategies. We saw the appropriation of $500,000 to the Illinois Healthy Local Food Incentives Fund that will double the money SNAP users can spend at farmers markets. We advocated through the Illinois Alliance to Prevention Obesity (IAPO) and, finally, after years of effort, saw the formal publication of draft requirements for health-related policy in childcare group homes. These requirements will improve the guidelines for licensed childcare centers and are now under final review with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. Illinois also announced a new law to make healthy beverages the default in restaurant kids’ meals, and Chicago’s City Council is now considering an ordinance to codify that law at the local level. At the federal level, we successfully advocated for critical child nutrition and anti-poverty provisions in the current version of the White House’s Build Back Better Bill.

Together, we continued to support child-serving institutions in their efforts to improve child health and wellness. CLOCC and Chicago Public Schools continued to co-convene the +Network and Food and Fitness Partner Network. Each group of partners focused on advancing the District’s local school wellness policy through the Healthy CPS initiative. CLOCC and the Chicago Park District concluded a four-year initiative that integrated 5-4-3-2-1 Go! messaging with summer camp activities at six Chicago parks. Through CLOCC’s leadership of West Side United’s Healthy Food Access Working Group, we increased seven West Side food pantries’ capacity to provide healthy food and nutrition education to their clients. Communities across Chicago continued to engage in CLOCC’s Neighborhood Walkability and Accessibility Initiative (NWAI) to identify and address challenges to walking and other forms of active transportation and we have seen that engagement lead to transportation infrastructure changes from Belmont Cragin on to Garfield Park 2021 was truly a remarkable year, with significant challenges but important accomplishments.

So, what lies ahead in 2022? It’s going to be a BIG year of celebrating our 20 years together, helping to address and prevent childhood obesity in Chicago and beyond. We will convene the network in February to review progress on our current annual goals, discuss strategies for accomplishing them by the end of our fiscal year in August 2022, and announce some restructuring of the network leadership that will help us bring obesity prevention forward over the next 20 years. In the coming days, we will announce a “20 Under 20” initiative to identify and recognize a collection of Chicago’s young leaders in obesity prevention and related areas. We will be formally introducing two curricula in 2022 focused on our two healthy lifestyle messages. “Healthy Food, Healthy You, Healthy Planet” is based on the 5-4-3-2-1 Go! message with content and activities designed to engage youth beyond the 3-to-5-year-old focus we’ve had since the development of the message. A new fiveSMART curriculum will support partners working with people who are pregnant or parenting young children, with evidence-based recommendations for obesity prevention in the earliest stages of child development. Our Neighborhood Walkability and Accessibility Assessment Tool (NWAAT) will go digital this year, making the collection, analysis, and dissemination of data easier for communities when advocating for policy, systems, and environmental changes. In November, our celebration of CLOCC’s first 20 years will conclude with a network convening, where we will introduce new resources to connect upstream root causes with downstream effects on nutrition, physical activity, and obesity.

The CLOCC staff looks forward to continued work with all of you as we address the factors that contribute to obesity at all levels – from achieving racial justice to improving food and physical activity access, to educating and motivating children and their families to eat healthy and stay active. Please join us in a virtual “cheers” as we toast to a happier, healthier, safer, and more equitable 2022 and as we celebrate 20 years together!

Reflecting on Extraordinary Times and Looking Forward with Extraordinary Hope: CLOCC’s 2021 New Year’s Message

Posted on

By Adam Becker, PhD, MPH 
Executive Director, Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children

As we emerge from a year of unprecedented challenges and look forward to our plans for 2021, we at CLOCC first and foremost offer our sympathy and condolences to those who have lost a loved one during – or because of – the Coronavirus pandemic and have had to cope with that loss without the healing closeness of family and friends. You are in our thoughts.

As the global COVID-19 pandemic first took hold, it seemed that a focus on childhood obesity would be pushed to the margins of our local and national agendas. Yet, as data emerged about the virus, its consequences, and the inequities related to both infection and resulting illness, it became quickly apparent that the obesity epidemic and the global pandemic were intrinsically linked. Obesity is understood to be one of the most, significant risk factors for serious illness or death resulting from COVID-19. What’s more, the same upstream factors that contribute to inequities in obesity prevalence (structural racism, poverty, poor access to health and social services) were clearly also driving inequities in COVID-19 rates. Our concern that COVID-19 mitigation efforts would require that we put CLOCC’s obesity-prevention work on hold soon evolved into an understanding that we had to redouble our efforts. Our network would be called up on to support constituents’ ability to eat healthy and stay active when the economy, the food system, and the institutions that serve children (schools, childcare, parks) were shutting down.

I have been immensely impressed by the resilience demonstrated across our network in 2020. Partners, staff, colleagues, funders and other stakeholders have exhibited boundless flexibility and furious determination in responding to the pandemic. I look forward to the day when, with the pandemic in the rearview mirror, we can reflect upon and celebrate the immeasurable examples of our public health field rising to this inauspicious occasion and adapting to meet the COVID-19 challenges that shook our city, our state, and our nation.

Early in the pandemic, CLOCC staff surveyed the network to develop an understanding of partner needs and concerns as we adjusted to our new realities. Based on that feedback, we added a COVID-19 resources section to our bi-weekly newsletter, followed soon thereafter by “CLOCC – Healthy at Home,” a collection of health and wellness tips based on 5-4-3-2-1 Go!® and promoted via social media and the newsletter. Our Kohl’s Cares®-funded work in and around Chicago Park District summer camps in the city’s south and west sides was expanded to include “Stay Fit Kits” that could be distributed to local families and used to support physical activity and nutrition at home. As Chicago Public Schools continued with remote learning, we took the step of creating “CLOCC – Healthy at Home for CPS” – a comprehensive library of online tools and health resources, cultivated to assist educators with supporting their students’ food and physical activity needs through the pandemic.

COVID-19 wasn’t our only driver of change as a staff in 2020. Midway through the year, we were proud to announce that CLOCC would be a founding member of Lurie Children’s Hospital’s new Patrick M. Magoon Institute for Healthy Communities. As the hub for Lurie Children’s community-based initiatives, the Magoon Institute’s diverse roster of programs is focused on health equity, population health, prevention, and advocacy. The Magoon Institute’s formation was certainly timely. In addition to the pandemic, the degree to which systemic racism and bias has affected this country’s Black communities became eminently clearer as we saw video after video of police brutality against black individuals, followed by examples of police violence enacted upon peaceful protestors of that brutality. The anger and chaos spilled into local streets, and the response caused many of the already-scarce healthy food and physical activity resources in Chicago neighborhoods to close, in some cases permanently.

White Coats for Black Lives, Lurie Children’s Hospital Photo

For several years, we have been working as an organization to identify and define social influencers of health (SIOH) and their connection to obesity. This too became incredibly timely work. Together we developed conceptual models that combined scientific literature and evidence with community lived experience to illustrate the connections between mental health, immigration status, housing, racism and childhood obesity. Our staff remains committed to framing CLOCC’s future work in the context of health equity and looks forward to collaborating with other Magoon Institute programs as we strive to create healthy places for Chicago’s families to live, learn and play.

So, what lies ahead in 2021? First, we will be developing fact sheets to summarize the conceptual models that illustrate the connections between upstream root causes, downstream effects on nutrition and physical activity, and obesity. Our goal is to provide these fact sheets to the CLOCC network to help partners make the case to their funders, elected officials, Boards of Directors, and constituents that addressing social influencers of health and preventing obesity are both imperative to improving the health and wellbeing of communities – especially those that have been hardest hit by the “triple pandemic” of racial injustice, economic crisis, and COVID-19. As local systems struggle with decisions about re-opening , we remain committed to supporting them in providing resources and information to children and their families to support healthy eating and physical activity in the absence of a structured school day. We are excited to be developing new curricula to support the integration of 5-4-3-2-1 Go! into virtual and in-person educational contexts, with an emphasis on out-of-school-time programs and a focus on older youth, among whom obesity rates continue to climb. We will be modernizing and digitizing our Neighborhood Walkability and Accessibility Assessment Tool to meet the technological needs of communities interested in examining and addressing the factors that make walking and other forms of active transportation challenging. Tying these efforts together, we will be leading and joining advocacy efforts to pursue the priorities laid out in our 2021-2025 Policy Agenda, released in December 2020.

We look forward to continued, enhanced work with the ever-growing CLOCC network and to welcoming new partners as our efforts expand to address factors that contribute to obesity at all levels – from achieving racial justice to improving food and physical activity access in communities, to educating and motivating children and their families to eat healthy and stay active. We look forward to the new and effective COVID-19 vaccines being equitably distributed to vast majorities of our communities so that we can once again come together in person to advance our collective mission of preventing childhood obesity with an equity lens.

So, I hope you will join me in a virtual “cheers” to a happier, healthier, safer, and more equitable 2021! As always, CLOCC staff is here to help and to hear what your hopes and needs are for obesity prevention in the coming year.

Black Lives Matter

Posted on

A statment from the staff at CLOCC

The killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis was a catalyst for widespread response across the nation. Mr. Floyd’s death came painfully soon after the killing of Breonna Taylor by police in Louisville and of Ahmaud Arbery by three white men in Satilla Shores, Georgia. At the moment of his death, Mr. Arbery was out doing the very thing CLOCC promotes among children and families in Chicago – being physically active. These are just the most recent racially-motivated killings that individuals and communities of color, but in particular Black communities, have endured. In recent days, CLOCC staff came together virtually to reflect on these events, how we wanted to communicate about them, and the actions we wanted to take in response to them. This statement is a result of these collective reflections.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, proclaimed by the United Nations in 1948, states that “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” Seventy-two years have passed since the writing of this Declaration and still, acts of racism, segregation, poor education, disfranchised neighborhoods, and limited job opportunities, force African Americans to cope with racial, political, social, and economic exclusions that jeopardize their health, their well-being, and their lives.

The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery serve as the most recent painful reminders of our nation’s failure to recognize all individuals as human beings regardless of race. The staff of the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children stands in solidarity with Black communities and others across our city and nation to declare that Black Lives Matter.

As an organization we have been committed since 2002 to our mission to confront the childhood obesity epidemic by promoting healthy and active lifestyles for all children. We have focused our efforts in communities experiencing inequitable access to healthy and affordable food, safe spaces for physical activity, and adequate forms of active transportation.

Over the past few years we have committed to a more explicit examination of the role that racism plays in shaping inequitable access to the resources, institutions, and environments that should be available to all children to support their right to live full and healthy lives. Even more recently, we have begun a process to actively identify and address the ways in which racism impacts our own practice. As an organization that convenes, collaborates, and communicates with a vast network of partners, we acknowledge that we must commit to actively listen to and elevate the voices of Black and Brown colleagues, partners, and communities as we join with countless others to dismantle pervasive systemic racism in our society at all levels.

Over the next several months we will be sharing our progress on these commitments, collaborating with new and long-standing partners on the development of solutions, and following the lead of partners who have experience and expertise far greater than our own in the fight for equity and justice. We humbly continue on this journey with our network and look forward to the work to come.

In solidarity,
The CLOCC Staff

CLOCC’s Year Ahead

Posted on

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 Wishing you all the best for a healthy, happy, productive, and equitable 2020!!

Reflecting on a Transformative Year and the Opportunities Ahead

Posted on

By Adam Becker, PhD, MPH 
Executive Director, Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children

As the New Year begins, I want to thank all of you who contributed to AdamBeckerFinalforWeb making 2018 a productive and informative year in childhood obesity prevention. Looking back, I think it’s safe to say that 2018 was a transformative year for CLOCC. At the end of 2017 as we celebrated the Consortium’s 15th Anniversary, we set bicycle wheels in motion to expand our collective approach to include social determinants and root causes of childhood obesity. Issues such as income inequality, immigration and racial equity were prominent in the national consciousness, and CLOCC’s formative steps to explore and address these issues as “upstream” contributors to the obesity epidemic appeared even timelier. While we continued core efforts to promote good nutrition and physical activity, to strengthen environments that support those behaviors, and advocate for related policies at all levels of government, 2018 was a year that energized CLOCC staff and partners to come together and collaborate across an even broader spectrum of issues that affect children’s ability to eat healthy and be active where they live, learn, and play.

New data indicate that childhood obesity rates are continuing to rise, especially in the “severely obese” category, and that racial and ethnic disparities persist. Here in Chicago, 19.1% percent of kindergartners and 18.2% of high schoolers are considered obese. As we know all too well, these trends continue to demonstrate ethnic and racial disparities. The 2015-16 National Health and Nutrition Examination surveys identified the prevalence of overweight and all classes of obesity were highest in Hispanic and black children (46% and 38%, respectively). New Healthy Chicago 2.0 data from the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) show that while few kids are consuming sugary beverages (despite a lack of political leadership to sustain a tax at the County level and to initiate one at the State level) fewer are also attaining at least 60 minutes of daily physical activity. Fruit and vegetable consumption for youth also remained stagnant at just 18% having five or more servings a day, below our citywide goal of 20% meeting the 5-4-3-2-1 Go! recommendation. A recent telephone survey of 3,310 adult Chicagoans conducted by CDPH and CLOCC’s home institution, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital, found that 62% considered childhood obesity to be one of their biggest concerns for children’s health, the second-highest ranked concern behind only drug abuse.

For 16 years our Consortium has worked to ensure that the best evidence-based strategies for obesity prevention are being implemented in childcare settings, schools, and neighborhoods across the city, but these recent data align with two ideas we articulated in 2018: that these strategies need to be better coordinated and co-located in communities facing obesity disparities, and that we must come together with experts in other disciplines to address the root causes of childhood obesity. Research continues to demonstrate how social and structural determinants such as racism, poverty, trauma, disinvestment in communities, a lack of affordable housing, and deteriorating neighborhood environments shape the health outcomes of our children. These issues are not just relevant for obesity and will require collaboration among those interested in other child health outcomes. That multi-sectoral work has already begun for CLOCC.

Our collective ability to navigate these new waters is bolstered by the size and diversity of our Consortium. Within our obesity-prevention network are individuals and organizations addressing myriad public health issues, with efforts spanning from neighborhood streets to the halls of Congress. It is a delicate process to incorporate an obesity-prevention lens to far-reaching societal issues such as racism or violence, but Consortium is motivated to shed light on these factors and forge new partnerships and new approaches to the address them. CLOCC staff has been inspired by the positive feedback and interest shown by our partners as we have charted this new course over the past year. As we begin to operationalize this expanded world-view and take on new action to address the root causes of childhood obesity, it is also inspiring to look back on some of the successes we have achieved together over the last year.

Thanks to generous funding from Kohl’s Cares, CLOCC embarked upon a two-year, multi-sector outreach program to incorporate the 5-4-3-2-1 Go! healthy lifestyle message into Chicago Park District summer camp programming. Partnering with the Park District, CLOCC trained summer camp counselors in Little Village, Englewood and Rogers Park on how to deliver the message and integrate it into camp programming. We supported nutrition and physical activity behavior messaging with bike helmet distribution at community events, an out-of-home marketing campaign, and comprehensive pre-and-post-program evaluation indicating that our multi-pronged approach was influencing healthy behaviors.

And speaking of the out-of-home marketing campaign, the Kohl’s Cares funding enabled us to give CLOCC’s 5-4-3-2-1 Go! message a much-needed makeover. The colorful new look and feel for the flyers and posters was also featured on billboards and bus kiosks in the three focus neighborhoods. As always, English and Spanish versions of the new flyer are available on the CLOCC website.

Now in its third year, CLOCC’s “+Network“ continues to demonstrate its value for Chicago Public Schools working to achieve “Healthy CPS” status. For the 2017-18 school year, the 15 member-strong +Network contributed to a 76% average Healthy CPS achievement rate for schools receiving Healthy CPS technical assistance (compared to a 57% average Healthy CPS achievement rate among schools that did not receive any support). Following this success, we were excited to see the Plus Network grow to 18 member organizations for the 18-19 school year.

The Consortium’s longstanding efforts to support Chicago-area hospitals along the path to Baby Friendly designation saw another success in 2018 as University of Chicago Medicine’s Comer Children’s Hospital Family Birth Center became the city’s fifth labor and delivery hospital to earn the distinction. As we wind down this work in 2019, we are extremely proud that in 4 short years we have helped all 5 Baby Friendly-designated hospitals in Chicago and two suburban hospitals to obtain this designation, indicating their success in implementing policies and practices that support breastfeeding among women making that choice.

In September, CLOCC wrapped up the three years of supporting 25 corner stores in suburban Cook County, in collaboration with the Cook County Department of Public Health, the University of Illinois Extension, and community based organizations in 8 south and west suburbs to offer fresh produce and other healthy items to suburban shoppers.

2018 saw an important evolution in the format of CLOCC Quarterly Meetings. Based on feedback from Consortium partners throughout 2016-17, we used our convening opportunities to hone our understanding of the connections between childhood obesity and “upstream” issues such as housing, climate change, community economic vibrancy, and neighborhood walkability & accessibility. For the final meeting of 2018 we shared what we had learned with 100 participants who also helped us to identify policy challenges and opportunities to address the connections between obesity and mental health, immigration, housing and community development. These recommendations will influence our direction in 2019 and beyond.

Moving forward, CLOCC will continue to employ the strategies that have made this Consortium a leader in the field of childhood obesity prevention. We will continue to convene our hard working and passionate partners striving to ensure healthier futures for our kids. We will continue to communicate to our network the news, research, strategies and opportunities that can aid their work. Finally, we will continue to collaborate; identifying opportunities where CLOCC’s voice and resources can assist in addressing social determinants of obesity and improve opportunities for our children to live healthy and active lives.

The coming year will assuredly hold many challenges for those working in public health, but the CLOCC staff is driven by the tenacity and passion of our partners. We are eager to meet these challenges with you, and we wish you all a happy and healthy New Year!

Exploring New Frontiers in Childhood Obesity Prevention

Posted on


By Adam Becker, PhD, MPH 
Executive Director, Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children

In 2017, CLOCC marked 15 years of collaborative learning and action to advance childhood obesity prevention in Chicago. We celebrated many successes, but we also learned that our battle has not yet been won. A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine uses pooled height and weight data from five nationally-representative longitudinal studies, with 176,720 observations from 41,567 children and adults and simulated growth trajectories across the life course. The study predicts that 57.3% of today’s children will be obese at age 35 and that half of the projected prevalence will occur during childhood. So, while current data suggests that rates are leveling off for children in general and declining among lower-income 2-4 year olds, the broad view of childhood obesity is still an alarming one.

Furthermore, we know that racial and ethnic disparities exist and are propagated by inequitable distribution of health-protecting and health-damaging environmental conditions where children live, learn, and play. In my keynote address to attendees at our December 2017 Quarterly Meeting, I shared these and other data showing how serious the childhood obesity epidemic continues to be. I presented summaries of Quarterly Meeting discussions, beginning in June 2016, in which together we identified strategies needed in CLOCC’s Blueprint areas to maintain our obesity-prevention momentum in Chicago. I reiterated our commitment as a consortium to advancing health equity as we continue to protect Chicago children from the devastating effects of early obesity.

A framework for advancing a health equity agenda, written by Dr. Shiriki Kumanyika’s and published by the New York Academy of Medicine in 2017, provides us with a high-level action plan of sorts that CLOCC’s leadership believes will move us forward. Dr. Kumanyika proposes four major categories of action: increase healthy options, reduce deterrents to healthy behaviors, build community capacity, and improve social and economic resources for individuals and families. If we take stock of CLOCC’s collective efforts and reflect back on that summary of our quarterly meeting discussions, we can be confident and proud that we have implemented myriad strategies to increase healthy options in Chicago. Together, we have improved access to healthy foods and beverages through farmers markets, corner stores, and machine vending.  We continue to support a robust health and wellness initiative across Chicago Public Schools. We are working at the city and neighborhood levels to support active transportation policies and environmental change. We also had a major victory in 2014, when we helped the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services improve nutrition and physical activity in licensed childcare through new, evidence-based licensing requirements.

One of the challenges we recognize is that these successes are somewhat limited in scope and scale. In other words, while advances have been made, they aren’t necessarily being implemented equitably or sufficiently in all of the areas in Chicago where they are needed. So, there is work to be done – even in ongoing interventions. We’ve also put tremendous collective effort into building community capacity across Chicago. We have trained thousands of staff from community-based organizations to integrate 5-4-3-2-1 Go!® and fiveSMART® into their programming. We have shared innovative models for improving food access and linked consortium partners with this expertise to those who have an interest in learning. We have trained and supported community-based organizations to engage residents and audit streets and sidewalks for obstacles to walking and biking, and to utilize that audit data to push for change. We have helped our partners increase evaluation capacity and given childcare providers a fun and easy curriculum to teach young children about 5-4-3-2-1 Go!. And just having an opportunity once a quarter when a hundred-or-so CLOCC partners can be in the same room, learning together, networking, sharing information has increased capacity for obesity prevention across the city.

Unfortunately, we’re not doing nearly as well in reducing deterrents to healthy behaviors. While we have begun to confront the aggressive marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages to kids (and their caregivers) and we have seen healthy vending initiatives work to equalize price differentials between healthy and unhealthy foods, we still have a long way to go in these areas. We fought hard but ultimately missed an opportunity to make sweetened beverages a little more expensive through the repealed Cook County sweetened beverage tax; Efforts to pass a similar tax at the state level ultimately died as well. While we have explored key deterrents to healthy behaviors such as violence and threats to personal safety, and emotional health challenges like depression and anxiety, we have yet to lay out a clear direction as a consortium for addressing these and other factors that sometimes feel like they’re taking us out of our missions and areas of expertise. Dr. Kumanyika’s framework reminds us that we must continue to figure out how we will help reduce these significant obstacles that people in communities hardest-hit by the obesity epidemic confront every day. Her framework also pushes us in even more challenging directions with the fourth category of action: improve social and economic resources.

In December’s keynote presentation, I shared with the Consortium the preliminary work undertaken by CLOCC staff and the Executive Committee to explore four broad areas of social determinants and root causes of obesity: racism and immigration; segregation, poverty, and education; built environment deficiencies and the forces of gentrification that often accompany large-scale improvements; and violence, trauma, and stress. While these deeply-entrenched social problems may be shuffled and regrouped by others who are leading the way in thought and action, these categories helped us to explore the evidence about their links to health and obesity, identify the resources we have at our disposal as a consortium to lend our voice to their solutions, and begin to lay out “CLOCC-appropriate” pathways to get involved.

I truly believe that tackling these deterrents to healthy behaviors and improvements in social and economic resources is the “new frontier” for obesity prevention for us here in Chicago. Many CLOCC partners have been hard at work for many years and have developed significant expertise in addressing some of these issues that may, initially, seem to be quite removed from obesity prevention. We look forward to working with these partners to understand how an obesity prevention consortium can add fuel to the fire. It is our hope that in the near future we can share what we learn and we encourage those of you with ideas already in mind to share those ideas. The structures and processes that have been at the core of CLOCC’s activities for 15 years may evolve as we expand our worldview and our strategic approach may change – maybe even dramatically. I believe, however, that if we are to avoid the predicted statistic –  that 57.3% of today’s children will be obese at 35 – then serious transformation in what we do and how we do it is imperative. We hope you will all join CLOCC staff and leadership as we explore this new and exciting frontier.