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Moving Forward with the Fight: Looking Ahead to 2018

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

Reflecting on CLOCC’s 15th year, it was a whirlwind of successes AdamBeckerFinalforWeband challenges for the field of childhood obesity prevention and for all those who fight for our children’s healthy futures. In 2017, both political discourse and administrative actions (or inactions!) were enough to overwhelm any public health advocate. Yet, here in Chicago, our obesity prevention community stayed the course, fighting for the improvements in our neighborhoods, institutions, and local and state policies that help kids to lead active and healthy lives.  

As our consortium continues to make progress in healthy lifestyle education, environmental change, and local and statewide advocacy, we have the opportunity to look further “upstream” to some of the more fundamental root causes of obesity in an effort to identify the next wave of obesity prevention strategies. This opportunity coincides with heightened local and national attention to health equity and social determinants of health such as immigration, education, poverty and racism. All of these deeply debated social constructs have an impact on health and on people’s ability to eat healthy and be active where they live, work, learn, and play. CLOCC staff and leadership groups (the Executive Committee and External Advisory Board) have been discussing strategies we might deploy to help us as a collective consider how we can expand our obesity prevention focus to include these important factors. We know that many of you already concentrate on solving some of these critical public health issues and we are excited to work with both new and existing partners to understand and explore how these social determinants of health and obesity can be identified and addressed at all levels. 

As we look to the future, I would also like to reflect on our Consortium’s recent accomplishments. I draw strength and inspiration from the progress that we have made together and I hope you will as well. As always, CLOCC staff is humbled and proud of all we have done together in the past 15 years. Here are just a few of the things we accomplished together in 2017:   

  • CLOCC launched the Serve Chicago Kids Better campaign to address the lack of healthy options in local restaurant kids’ meals. Fact sheets and tools were developed to highlight the scope of the issue and local parents formed an advisory group. On September 6th, a resolution (R2017-729) was introduced in City Council calling for a subject matter hearing in the Health and Environmental Protection Committee, intended to elevate the discussion around restaurant kids’ meals and explore policy options to make them healthier. So far, 10 Council members have agreed to sign on with additional commitments to circulate to members of the Black Caucus, Latino Caucus and Progressive Caucus.       
  • The Healthy Corner Store component of the Healthy HotSpot initiative, supported by the Partnerships to Improve Community Health project, achieved its goal of recruiting and maintaining 25 healthy corner stores, making fresh fruits, vegetables and additional food items available in communities with limited or no access to full-service grocery stores. CLOCC staff and partners conducted 18 in-store healthy food tastings, six community trainings, and in-store trainings on promotion, marketing, and value-added products (e.g., making smoothies from fruits and vegetables). Relationships with several of the participating healthy corners stores are continuing as part of the Consortium’s work to improve distribution of healthy, affordable, high quality produce in stores throughout Chicagoland. In Chicago, the recently established Chicago Healthy Corner Store Network, including CLOCC and partners Inter-City Muslim Action Network and the Chicago Partnership for Health Promotion, is exploring ways to extend produce distribution to healthy corner stores in the city.
  • The Consortium’s +Network, coordinated by CLOCC staff, worked closely with Chicago Public Schools, guiding 15 schools to achieve 11 new criteria under the Healthy CPS standards and sustaining an additional 32 criteria across the group. The most common LearnWELL criteria that schools were able to achieve were: Nutrition Education, Recess, and Healthy Celebrations. The School Leadership criteria was achieved in eight schools and will continue to be a main focus of the work during the 2017-2018 school year. The success of the +Network has motivated CPS to generate similar networks to support the other badges of Healthy CPS, including Chronic Disease and Sexual Health.
  • CLOCC staff introduced an updated Neighborhood Walkability Assessment Tool (NWAT) in 2016, and this past year CLOCC partners took it to the streets as a component of multiple Neighborhood Walkability Initiatives. Led by the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community (CBCAC), Chinatown residents were able to document the challenges and opportunities within the pedestrian infrastructure of their community, resulting in more than 90 block and intersection assessments which have been uploaded, analyzed and have draft results available. CLOCC-led walkability assessment trainings have also been incorporated as a key tactic within comprehensive neighborhood health evaluations in Little Village and Rogers Park, and future walkability work is slated to take place in Riverdale.
  • CLOCC staff continues to support hospitals working to achieve Baby Friendly status. In February, Rush University Medical Center became Chicago’s fourth – and largest – labor and delivery center to earn the designation. As of this writing, six Chicago hospitals are in the fourth and final phase of the Baby-Friendly pathway.
  • Late in 2017, CLOCC kicked off planning for Chicago Activating Neighborhood Environments for Health and Wellness (Chicago ANEHW), which will continue into September 2019. Focused around Chicago parks in three distinct regions of the City, this project aims to improve healthy, active living through educational and environmental interventions
  • Our Physical Activity and Built Environment Interest Group held a successful pilot event to help community residents and organizations make and build on connections between physical activity and the built environment. Held in Rogers Park, this inaugural event was attended by more than 40 adults and 80 children. Participating city-wide partners included PlayStreets, Chicago Bike Ambassadors, Active Transportation Alliance, and the Chicago Park District. One of the outcomes of this event was the development of a community agenda for increasing physical activity in Rogers Park being led by Howard Area Community Center.

An exciting year had a fitting exclamation point in the celebration of CLOCC’s 15th Anniversary at the Consortium’s Winter Quarterly Meeting on December 7. We were especially grateful for those who submitted nominees for the CLOCC 15th Anniversary Childhood Obesity Prevention Hall of Fame, for the partners who developed posters and joined us in person to showcase their recent and ongoing obesity-prevention work, and for those were on hand at the meeting to help open the cover on the next chapters of the Consortium’s obesity-prevention journey.

We enter 2018 with renewed vigor and a great deal of optimism that, together, we can ensure the children of Chicago and beyond will enjoy a healthy future and the opportunity to reach their full potential.

We wish you all a happy and healthy New Year!

Adam B. Becker, PhD, MPH
Executive Director

A New Year’s Message From CLOCC Executive Director Adam Becker, PhD, MPH

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

As we stand on the eve of CLOCC’s 15th year, it is a good time to AdamBeckerFinalforWebreflect on the myriad accomplishments of our Consortium. If the best predictor of the future is the past, then I am confident that, together, our public health community will rise to meet the challenges we may face in 2017.

Over the past year, our partners have tirelessly and passionately fought to increase opportunities for all children in Chicago to have healthy and active lives. We have continued to advocate for environments that support healthy eating and active living where children live, learn, and play. We also continue to educate Chicagoans using our evidence-based healthy lifestyle messages: 5-4-3-2-1 Go!® and fiveSMART™. Health equity has been a centerpiece of these efforts. While much remains to be done, and the shifting political landscape leaves us guessing to some extent as to where our energies will be needed most in the near future, it is important and humbling to consider all that we have achieved together:

  • From the Council chamber of the Cook County building to the Senate floor in Springfield, our partners were advocacy all-stars in 2017, advocating on behalf of children and families across the city and state. After several years of attempts, the Healthy Local Foods Incentives fund – which would double the value of SNAP dollars at local farmers’ markets – rode a wave of support and sailed through the Illinois House and Senate. Governor Rauner issued an amendatory veto but, ultimately, the legislation received a second round of support and passed the House and Senate in November without opposition. As the New Year arrives, we await the conclusion of this bill’s journey and eagerly anticipate the Governor’s signature.
  • The Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) proposal, which would levy a penny-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), remains on the radar of Illinois legislators as a viable source of revenue to support critical health and public health services and programs. It seems we may be near the national tipping point as more communities across the country consider or have already passed similar taxes. Advocates and leaders in Cook County should take great pride in becoming the largest U.S. jurisdiction to approve a sweetened-beverage tax, with a small portion of the revenues going to chronic disease prevention.
  • CLOCC continues to support hospitals working to achieve Baby Friendly status and we celebrated this year as Advocate Illinois Masonic became the third Chicago labor and delivery center to earn the prestigious designation. Baby Friendly Hospitals build our city’s capacity for supporting breastfeeding from the moment of delivery, and an additional 11 hospitals in the City are currently in the Baby Friendly pathway to designation.
  • Efforts to support organizations and communities outside of the city limits continued with the expansion of the PICH-funded healthy corner store initiative in suburban Cook County. In corner stores throughout the region, the Cook County Health Department’s “Healthy Hot Spot” brand can be found pointing the way to fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy items in these small but important retail environments in communities that face healthy food access challenges. A geo-targeted mobile ad campaign and cooking demonstrations help build awareness among local residents about their nearby stores.
  • CLOCC’s work within school systems moved into high gear with the re-introduction of the Food and Fitness Partner Network, a collection of health and wellness partners that support public schools to meet the requirements of the health and wellness policies at Chicago Public Schools. CLOCC now convenes this network on behalf of CPS and out of the network has emerged the “Plus Network.” This subset of food and fitness partners will support the schools they’re in as an overall school wellness partner, helping schools to meet their wellness goals and linking schools to other partners as needed. The Plus Network comes online in the new year.
  • Built environment is often in the headlines with the steady img_5234and welcome addition of new parks and path systems throughout the City. In June, CLOCC reintroduced an enhanced Neighborhood Walkability Initiative (NWI) to help community organizations assess their surroundings and advocate for change where needed. A revised tool now includes indicators and strategies related to crime, violence, and safety as factors that contribute to or detract from community-level physical activity. CLOCC will be training and engaging community-based organization partners to participate in the NWI in 2017.

Through attendance at quarterly meetings, food access workshops, 5-4-3-2-1 Go!® and fiveSMART™ trainings, in answering advocacy calls and participating in the annual Blueprint Survey, our Consortium family continuously demonstrates a passion for changing the course of childhood obesity in Chicago. On behalf of CLOCC staff, I express our gratitude for your efforts to ensure that all children in Chicago and beyond can enjoy a healthy future and reach their full potential.

We wish you all a happy and healthy New Year!

New Perspectives on Childhood Obesity Trends Emphasize Importance of Prevention Efforts

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By Adam Becker, PhD, MPH, Executive Director, and Maryann Mason, PhD, Community and Evaluation Research Director, Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children

Current trends in childhood obesity have been in the news lately. In 2014, the CDC issued a report, based on research from its National Center for Health Statistics, concluding that obesity prevalence was leveling off for most kids and even declining for the youngest age group.   You may have heard people saying that obesity rates had plateaued. A number of cities and communities were highlighted as having downward trends in childhood obesity and it was assumed that these local trends were contributing to the plateau at the national level.  Here in Chicago, CLOCC reported a downward trend from 2003-2004 to 2009-2010 among children entering school. Chicago Public School data from 2011-2012 and 2013-14, analyzed and published by CDPH, has confirmed the slight, but significant, downward trend.

However, this April, an article appeared in the journal Obesity stating that previously-documented downward national trends were overstated and that “there is no evidence of a decline in obesity prevalence in any age group, despite substantial clinical and policy efforts targeting the issue.” So, what to make of this discrepancy? It goes back to the length of time referenced in the comparisons.   When we look at obesity rates over time, the longer time frame we examine, the more the trend comes in to focus. As pointed out in a recent Washington Post article “when you start earlier, the narrative changes considerably.”  Longer time periods help us put variations into perspective.  For example, the more years of data we have, the easier it is to spot outliers – rates that are significantly higher or lower than years before and after them. 

CLOCC’s findings of a downward trend were based on five-year’s worth of data. This gives us reason for cautious optimism. The more recent CPS/CDPH prevalence reports took a year-by-year look at rates.  We are a bit more cautious in interpreting these findings. 

So, what does this most recent finding of no significant decline in childhood obesity at the national level mean for our work locally and nationally?   These data indicate that we are in a period of fluctuation where year-to-year, the obesity rates may rise or may fall.   This follows a three-decade period where the rate consistently rose. So, this disruption in consistent increases is good news in the sense that the upward trend has been interrupted with intervals where the rates may be declining. But the longer the timeframe, the more clear the picture is painted in terms of the overall trend. Taking the longer view, it appears that, nationally, the downward trends reported may not be enduring. What’s further, there has been much evidence to suggest that disparities in childhood obesity and increases in the numbers of children who are severely obese persist.

We have work to do as a nation to combat this epidemic. Locally, we don’t yet have the ability to look at long-term trends, but as CPS and CDPH continue to analyze and publish childhood obesity data, we may soon be able to create a broad view of long-term trends. Until that point, we must continue to work hard to ensure that children, their families and communities have the resources, access, knowledge, and support they need to eat healthy and be physically active where they live, learn and play. National fluctuations and local indications that rates may be leveling off or coming down should encourage us to aggressively use the evidence base in efforts to improve environments and services, increase resources devoted to obesity prevention and to continue the education and support of children and families. Following that course, we endeavor to establish a downward trend in all children that will hold over the longer term.





World Cancer Day a Reminder that Prevention is an Everyday Concern

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

On January 28th, President Obama released a memorandum AdamBeckerFinalforWebcalling for the creation of the “White House Cancer Moonshot Task Force.” In it he states, “It is of critical national importance that we accelerate progress towards prevention, treatment, and a cure….” At CLOCC we believe that prevention should be a top priority. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network states ( that “The science is clear – being overweight or obese is the number one cancer risk for people who don’t use tobacco. In fact, one in four cancer cases in the U.S. are from poor diet, physical inactivity, being overweight and obesity.” Today, World Cancer Day, we celebrate all of the hard work of CLOCC partners to ensure that children and families can eat healthy and be physically active where they live, work, learn, and play. Our Blueprint for Accelerating Progress in Childhood Obesity in Chicago: The Next Decade lays out goals and objectives for preventing obesity in Chicago and describes numerous strategies that can help us as a community to reach them. As we think about this devastating disease, the many lives lost and the many who have struggled to overcome, we commend the President for reminding us and re-focusing us on this key public health problem. We at CLOCC remind all of you that your work to prevent obesity is, in fact, cancer prevention. We look forward to continued collaboration and to success at the national and local levels in conquering this formidable foe.

Resources about the relationship between cancer and obesity can be found here:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
American Cancer Society – Cancer Action Network
National Cancer Institute




A New Year’s Message from CLOCC’s Executive Director

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Dear CLOCC Partners –

As we enjoy the holiday season and prepare to greet a new year, it is also a perfect time to reflect on our accomplishments and begin planning for the work ahead. While we have a lot to be proud of as a consortium this year, we still have important goals for 2016 to ensure that the City’s future generations are empowered to enjoy equitable access to healthy food, that families have safe places to be active, and that our public policy consistently promotes a culture of health and well-being. These are tall tasks, but one thing we can certainly celebrate is our collective strength as a network of engaged partners. The work we have done together over the last year has put us in a position to make great strides in 2016.     

• The Consortium was in high gear from the onset of 2015. In February, we debuted an entirely new website, featuring a colorful layout with an improved structure that makes this important resource easier to navigate. In tandem with the website launch, we upgraded our electronic membership database and our meeting platform to better serve our partners and to improve the way we communicate with all of you.

• In February and March, the Consortium made its voice Summer Foodsheard during Illinois’ legislative session, successfully fighting to preserve the State’s physical education requirements for schools, while simultaneously lobbying for improved access to healthy foods using SNAP and WIC benefits. Additionally, as the Healthy Eating and Active Living Act was introduced, CLOCC worked to educate and inform our partners about the harmful effects of sugar and the benefits of strategies to reduce consumption by increasing the price of sugar-sweetened beverages; the most significant source of excess calories in children’s diets. In September, we introduced our 2016-2020 Policy Agenda which will steer the Consortium’s policy and advocacy work for the next five years.    

• In the spring, with summer around the corner, we explored together the impact on children’s health of the reduction in structured activities and opportunities for healthy eating and physical activity that can occur when schools finish the academic year and our partners shared information about opportunities to keep youth engaged in this challenging part of the year. CLOCC provided training to the staff of summer food programs and Play Streets to strengthen their efforts to reduce the negative impact that un-structured summers can have on children’s health.

• This year we continued our efforts to support organizations and communities outside of the city limits. We concluded an 18-month project to support networks in Chicago Heights, Cicero, and Maywood to strengthen their efforts to address nutrition and physical activity and we began managing a healthy corner store initiative in suburban Cook County to advance the county’s Healthy Hot Spot campaign.

• CLOCC staff continued to support hospitals working toward Baby Friendly Designation, ensuring that new mothers have access to environments that support breastfeeding from the moment of delivery. Two hospitals have now undergone site visits – the final stage in certification – and we are hopeful that both will receive designation in 2016. In total, seven hospitals are now in Phase 4, five hospitals are in Phase 3, one hospital is in Phase 2 and one hospital is in Phase 1.

• This year, our health educator held more than 20 5-4-3-2-1 Go! trainings throughout Chicago, attended by more than 350 teachers, nutrition experts and other community leaders, in order to help spread CLOCC’s key healthy-lifestyle messaging. At the year’s final Quarterly Meeting, we also introduced a new 5-4-3-2-1 Go! poster for early childhood that will appeal to younger audiences.

• Finally, the introduction of “Five SMART,” CLOCC’s new healthy lifestyle message for 0-3, as well as an early-childhood curriculum for 5-4-3-2-1 Go!, will provide opportunities for the network to increase our emphasis on health and wellness for the youngest and most vulnerable children.     

Progress in our efforts to prevent childhood obesity can only happen with the passionate efforts of educators, public health advocates, researchers, legislative leaders and all of those who serve as role models for the next generation. On behalf of CLOCC, thank you for your commitment to ensure that all children in Chicago and beyond can enjoy a healthy future and reach their full potential. We wish you all a happy and healthy New Year!
Adam B. Becker, PhD, MPH
CLOCC Executive Director

Evaluation Work Highlights Health Benefits at Chicago Children’s Museum

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By Shelby Chun Fat, Research Assistant, Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children

While the role of schools in promoting healthy CCM-movementbehaviors is well-recognized, the support from cultural institutions is often overlooked. Museums, especially children’s museums, provide children with healthy lifestyle education and opportunities for healthy eating and physical activity. They can also provide families with guidance in promoting healthy behaviors outside of school and resources for schools to incorporate into their curriculum.

In the winter of 2014, CLOCC partnered with staff from Chicago Children’s Museum (CCM) to conduct an evaluation of children’s physical activity during museum visits. CCM wanted to better understand the physical-activity opportunities offered to child visitors and potentially use the study findings to communicate to visitors about the experience. They had hoped that it would also give them feedback in helping them identify opportunities to enhance and promote physical activity for children visitors.

Children ages 3 to 8 were given accelerometers (motion-detecting devices) to wear during their museum visit and had their height and weight measured in order to calculate body mass index (BMI). Adults accompanying the participating children were asked to complete a survey that included demographics, family background and exhibits visited.

Data analyzed included the average percentage and minutes that participants spent in three levels of physical activity: sedentary (e.g., sitting), light (e.g., walking) and moderate and vigorous (MVPA) (e.g., running).

Accelerometer data were collected from 96% of the child participants. The participants were racially and ethnically diverse, with Caucasians making up the largest group. Most child participants had normal weight status and most participants’ mothers had at least some college education. The average age of participants was 5.27 years, and the average museum visit was 2.11 hours long.

CCM visitor participants spent 67.6% of their visit in light activity, 21.3% in MVPA and 9.2% sedentary. A previous study (Brown et al) has shown that children in preschool centers spend about 8% of their average 5.5 hour preschool day in light activity, 3% in MVPA and 89% of their day sedentary. Compared to an average preschool day, a visit to CCM includes a significantly improved amount of physical activity.

There were no significant associations between the percent of the museum visit spent in MVPA and any of the individual or family characteristics, suggesting that CCM provides equitable access to physical activity opportunities for all visitor groups. In terms of exhibits, there was a variation in physical activity. Specifically, the more time spent in the Snow Much Fun exhibit, the greater the percent of visit time spent in MVPA. Furthermore, the more time spent in the Artabounds, Skyline, and Tinkering Lab exhibits, the lower the percentage their visit spent in MVPA.

Children’s museums focus on providing appropriate learning environments through experiential exhibits. CCM has taken the initiative of integrating children’s health into its institutional mission. Parents and other caregivers may wish to consider CCM or similar cultural institution visits as an opportunity to augment daily physical activity time for children.

For more information on CLOCC’s evaluation work, including the tools and services available to those working in obesity prevention or interested in evaluative consultation, visit the Research and Evaluation page.



CLOCC’s 2016-2020 Policy Priorities

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by Adam Becker, PhD, MPH
CLOCC Executive Director

At the September 16th Quarterly Meeting we released the 2016-2020AdamBeckerFinalforWeb Policy Agenda. Policy strategies are an important part of the social ecological approach to childhood obesity prevention that CLOCC has taken since its inception back in 2002. Local, state and federal policies shape the conditions that influence our ability to eat healthy and be physically active. Decisions made by legislative bodies (e.g., the Chicago City Council, the Illinois General Assembly, the U.S. Congress) and by executive branches (e.g., the Mayor’s office and city agency commissioners, the Governor’s office and directors of state agencies, the President of the United States and his cabinet) have an impact on things as diverse as the nutritional quality of school meals, the equitable investment in walkable and bike-friendly neighborhoods, the cost of produce and sugar-sweetened beverages and whether or not children are exposed to food and beverage marketing while in licensed childcare.

In 2010 CLOCC created the 2011-2015 Policy Agenda. We did this with participation from over 60 CLOCC organizational partners, our Executive Committee, and External Advisory Board and the support 30 partner organizations specifically focused on policy change. Our original agenda was based on the best available evidence about which strategies would have the greatest likelihood of reducing childhood obesity rates in Chicago and beyond. With the original agenda due to sunset at the end of this year, we engaged in a similar process to develop the 2016-2020 agenda. Building on the foundation of the first policy agenda, CLOCC staff and representatives from 13 partner organizations selected priorities for CLOCC’s policy work for the next five years. Items that were still relevant from the original agenda were revised to reflect their current status. Items that were no longer needed were deleted. A draft of the agenda was then shared with CLOCC’s Executive Committee and External Advisory Board for review, additions, and recommendations for language changes. Finally, we checked in with a number of national partner organizations that are not on our leadership groups.

The 2016-2020 agenda is a reflection of five years of policy change work in the City of Chicago and across the country, and the thinking of some of the city’s and nation’s best-known experts in childhood obesity prevention and strategies aligned with childhood obesity prevention. We at CLOCC hope that this refreshed policy agenda will continue to provide guidance and support to partners near and far who are looking for the most promising approaches to policy change that will make healthy eating and active living easy for all children and for the families and communities who nurture and protect them, ensuring they have the best opportunities for a lifetime of good health. Over the coming years we will be educating our network, providing tools and training, and issuing calls to action to mobilize CLOCC’s 3,000+ partners to help us advance these policy priorities. We look forward to working with you!

CLOCC thanks the following people and organizations for their support in developing the 2016-2020 CLOCC Policy Agenda:

Local Partners:

  • Active Transportation Alliance
  • Chicago Department of Public Health
  • City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development
  • Cook County Health and Hospitals System
  • EverThrive IL
  • Greater Chicago Food Depository
  • Health and Medicine Policy Research Group
  • Illinois Department of Public Health
  • Illinois Public Health Institute
  • Illinois State Alliance of YMCAs
  • Ounce of Prevention Fund
  • Trust for America’s Health
  • United Way of Metropolitan Chicago

The members of CLOCC’s Executive Committee
The members of CLOCC’s External Advisory Board

Special Thanks to:

  • Christine Bozlak, Assistant Professor, University at Albany, School of Public Health
  • Anna Browar, CLOCC Intern and UIC Master of Public Health Student
  • Department of Communications and External Affairs, Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago

Taking Summertime Seriously

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By Amy Bohnert, PhD, and Carolyn Bates
Loyola University Chicago

Obesity among children and adolescents in the United States has reached unprecedented levels.1  Despite the common concerns about the role that schools play in providing healthy environments, research shows that youth can actually gain weight twice as fast during the summer months as during the rest of the calendar year.2  This is particularly problematic for low-income families, who often find it difficult when the “school faucet turns off” during the summer months to support children with the same level of resources that is provided during the school year.3 

A recent study indicated that weight gain during the elementary school years occurs primarily during the short span of summer break.4 Indeed, children’s body mass index (BMI) in that study decreased by 1.5 percentile points during the school year, only to increase by 5.2 percentile points over the summer months.4 This accelerated weight gain during the summer is most pronounced among minority youth.2,4


Click to enlarge

This figure (right), from Moreno and colleagues (2015), suggests that summertime weight gain (as  represented by the spikes in the G*-S columns) starts for all ethnic groups during the summer following 1st grade and is less pronounced for white children.5

The cumulative costs associated with summertime weight gain are staggering.  What can be done to avoid this summertime slide? Recent findings point to a promising solution: provide youth with structure during the summer months. This structure comes in two forms: 1) summer programming and 2) family rules and routines.

Evidence suggests that summer programming that offers structured activities for extended periods of time appears to protect against weight gain. In fact, in a recent study, adolescents whose summers involved regular participation in organized, structured activities were found to have significantly lower BMIs than youth whose summer care arrangements consisted solely of parent care without organized activities and care by other adults.6 Moreover, summertime arrangements that include involvement in organized activities appear to have long-lasting positive effects on youth, including lower BMIs and increased social-emotional functioning the following school year.7

Family rules and routines are additional forms of structure that are essential to maintaining a healthy weight over the summer months. During the school year, schools impose some degree of structure over meals and activity, while families may impose regular bedtimes for children who need to wake up early for school. During the summer, on the other hand, families may relax rules about bedtimes, mealtimes and snacking. However, these very rules and routines have been shown to promote health and serve as protective factors against the development of obesity.8,9 In the absence of such rules and routines, children sleep for shorter amounts of time,10  eat less healthfully,11  and engage in significantly less physical activity,12  all of which serve as major risk factors for weight gain. 

SummerBlog2There are two ways in which CLOCC partner organizations can address summertime weight gain. The first is by encouraging families to have their children enroll in and attend summer programs. What kind of summer programming gives youth and families the most bang for their buck? High-quality programs offering opportunities for academic or personal enrichment, along with health-promoting environments, are ideal. Evaluations of local organizations have suggested that programs like the YMCA Summer Learning Program or Chicago-based Girls in the Game can offer the kind of structure kids need.  For organizations that do not have evaluation data available, families can judge the quality of a program based on a few key features that have been identified in the after-school programming literature. Strong programs are explicit about their goals.  They implement activities that focus on promoting those goals while getting youth actively involved.13  Additionally, research supports that, regardless of goals, the best programs are those that follow the SAFE acronym: “SAFE” programs teach and promote learning in a Sequenced fashion, keep kids Active and Focused, and are Explicit in their mission.14

A second way in which CLOCC partners can support families is by educating families about household/family structure through workshops, trainings, individual counseling and advising, articles in newsletters and more. Such education should focus on the kinds of family structures that can help children to avoid the summertime slide. It is essential that parents be educated on the importance of maintaining rules and routines around bedtimes, meals and physical activity, and taught how to implement and enforce such rules and routines. Although it has not yet been studied, it is highly probable that parents will be more likely to enforce family rules around bedtime if their child has to get up to attend a program during the summer months. As a community committed to health and well-being of children, we play a vital role in advocating for the best ways to keep “the faucet turned on” for the children who need it most.

A sample of resources available this summer in Chicago include:

– The LunchStop program will serve meals outdoors Monday-Friday beginning June 23rd. View a map of locations here. An initiative of Chicago Public Schools, LunchStop also welcomes partner organizations to engage attendees in wellness programming. Contact Mariah VanErmen at for details.

– The Illinois State Board of Education’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) was instituted to provide nutritious meals to children during the summer months when school is not in session. The program is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and administered by the ISBE.

Article References




Advancing the Blueprint: A Profile of the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council

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On January 8, 2013, CLOCC released the Blueprint for Accelerating Progress in Childhood Obesity Prevention in Chicago: The Next Decade. Each year, CLOCC invites our partners to weigh in, via survey, on their progress along the path set forth by the Blueprint. In coming months. CLOCC will feature these partners in this space, as well as on social media. For more information, contact

We had the recent opportunity to speak with Brighton Park Neighborhood Council (BPNC) Director of Organizing, Mariela Estrada, who was happy to tell us about the work BPNC is doing to train and support community health workers. These individuals provide culturally and linguistically appropriate community and in-home education integrating obesity prevention education into their services. Specifically related to the Blueprint, we learned about BPNC’s progress in the areas of Health Promotion, Physical Activity/Built Environment and Food Access.

Through a partnership with CLOCC, BPNC started training health promoters to perform walkability assessments, provide nutrition education and disseminate information to the community regarding the role of the built environment in the obesity epidemic. BPNC believes that training health workers on obesity prevention education is vital to improving overall community health and that providing obesity prevention education at schools is directly aligned with its mission to provide youth services.

BPNC’s School-based Parent Health Promoter Program has parent leaders at four local schools developing family health education programs, family fitness programs and health and nutrition programs. The fitness programs offer popular classes such as Zumba and yoga at a low cost. These programs provide a venue for health communication through parent and student engagement. BPNC’s Parent Patrol program also encourages physical activity; parents volunteer at schools during entry and dismissal times so that those who want to walk feel safe enough to do so. Much of BPNC’s work in this area serves the Blueprint’s goal to “Create, expand, or improve community environments where children can be physically active,” supporting street/sidewalk environmental change approaches.

Through its Health Promoter program, BPNC trains community leaders about making healthy choices and how to disseminate that information to the community. Health Promoters learn about nutrition, mental health and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Training is provided on heart health, chronic disease and general obesity trends. Health documentaries such as Weight of the Nation and others are also utilized during training sessions.

Much of BPNC’s work serves to address the Health Promotion goals of the Blueprint Specifically, goal 3.1, which states “Provide programming to build health literacy, knowledge, and skills around healthy eating and physical activity in communities experiencing high levels of obesity.” In order to expand nutrition education, BPNC Health Promoters were trained to implement education with sensitivity to community culture. Additionally, a local chef provided a cooking demonstration that included a culturally-competent, healthy preparation of a Thanksgiving turkey.

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BPNC’s grocery store challenge helped introduce the MyPlate Guidelines

The first round of nutrition education trainings, funded by CLOCC, introduced the MyPlate guidelines. One of the tactics included in the Blueprint is to provide education about preparing nutritious meals on a limited budget for families experiencing food insecurity. Those who attended the class were eligible to participate in a grocery store challenge, where participants on a grocery tour were challenged to spend just $5 and purchase healthy ingredients that would create a meal for a family of four. Health Promoters emphasized tips such as looking for nutritious items on sale, avoiding shopping while hungry and also clarified misconceptions regarding the differences in canned, frozen and fresh food. The second round of trainings was coordinated through the UIC School of Public Health; the trainings took place twice a week for eight weeks and were provided free of charge through free resources and volunteer speakers.

BPNC identified its main community health objectives as implementing 5-4-3-2-1 Go! ® through work with CLOCC, (improving nutrition, increasing physical activity and decreasing screen time), performing health assessments and improving access to health care.

BPNC’s Health Promoters are very engaged in Council activities and are essential in keeping community residents informed of upcoming events. They utilize fliers, word of mouth, local newspapers, school bulletins and school calendars. BPNC is satisfied with the level of community engagement and attendance at their events; over 300 people attended a recent health fair.

The Council reports seeing changes in the community such as increased parent awareness regarding healthy food consumption and the importance of physical activity. These changes are indicated by community residents through self-evaluations conducted once a year, as well as anecdotal evidence on making lifestyle changes at home and engaging kids in after school activities.

Moving forward, BPNC has set a goal to decrease obesity in the community by 3 percent in the next 10 years. The Council is working to secure resources to expand its obesity prevention education, especially nutrition education classes for young people and providing popular fitness classes at low cost to encourage physical activity. Additionally, the health subcommittee in the Brighton Park coalition continues to focus on linking residents to health care providers and health education resources that would be otherwise unavailable or unaffordable.