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

summertimeblogchart

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 mlvanermen@cps.edu 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 info@clocc.net.

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.

BPNC Photo

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.

 

Making a Splash: Perspectives Middle Academy’s Water Challenge

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A student taking the Water Challenge

By Amissah Seals, ELEV8 Program Manager

Though Perspectives Middle Academy (PMA) encourages its scholars to live healthy lifestyles by providing fresh healthy lunches and enacting a no soda machine policy, many of our scholars still struggle with obesity. There are also a high number of students with diabetes and other illnesses that are closely linked to how and what we eat. Even with a “no soda policy” water is not always the first choice when picking a beverage. Many of the juices and sports drinks that our scholars have access to are loaded with sugar. We wanted to show our scholars that a small change to their diet could improve their energy, help them lose weight and become more active. What better way than through simply drinking more water! With support from CLOCC as a part of the Healthy Schools Initiative focused on creating healthier school environments, ELEV8 embarked on a campaign to get our scholars to drink more water.

On February 28, we kicked off the ELEV8 at PMA Water Challenge with a lively pep rally! The scholar Health Ambassadors made a presentation called “WHY WATER?” They spoke earnestly with their fellow scholars about the health benefits of water and why we felt the need to try to challenge the PMA student body to drink more water. They explained that the challenge would last 10 weeks. We showed a video featuring Mrs. Michelle Obama extolling the virtues of water and our PMA Warriors cheerleading team lead us in a few cheers to get the scholars excited about the challenge ahead.

Our goal was to increase students’ and faculty members’ water intake by 48 ounces a day. We started by purchasing two cold filtered water machines. This move alone had the entire Perspectives Auburn Gresham campus excited! One of the many complaints we heard when asking students about why they did not drink the water available to them in the cafeteria or in the regular water fountains was the taste and that it was never cold! In addition, we purchased water bottles for the entire student body, faculty and staff. There were no excuses not to get your daily dose of fresh clean water. Our health ambassadors hung the marketing materials and made daily reminders during advisory periods. Ultimately we hoped to increase our schools water intake by 760,000 ounces by the end of the 10 week challenge.

The stage was set, but we met a few challenges along the way. One of the major problems we encountered was how to record the amount of water each student drank. We settled on an “honor system” where students added multicolored stickers to large bulletin boards placed near each water machine and in the cafeteria. Another issue we faced was the scholars losing water bottles.

For the most part our challenge went quite well. With the guidance of our health coordinator, Anya Cawthon, the PMA Health Ambassadors presented during lunch time and during “A Disciplined Life” (ADL) classes, reminding students of the benefits of drinking more water and living a healthy lifestyle. Though we fell slightly short of our 760,000 ounce goal, we managed to have nearly 80% of the student body retain their water bottles for the remainder of the school year. We also inspired both of the high schools to plan a water challenge for the Fall of 2014. A lasting effect of the water challenge is that Perspectives Auburn Gresham Campus will have access to cold filtered water for years to come.

From Michelle Hill – 6th grade student at Perspectives Middle Academy:

I am a sixth grade scholar here at Perspectives Middle Academy. Ms. Cawton asked me to join the Health Ambassadors to help give me some focus. At first I was scared to talk in front of the whole school about drinking water. I thought that they would not listen to me because water isn’t that interesting. Then we started learning about how water can help you stay healthy. Our school really likes to be competitive and do challenges against the other classes. I thought I would really like to help my advisory win the challenge.

The hardest part was getting all the scholars to remember to bring their water bottles with them every day. By the middle of the challenge I really started to like drinking water more. Especially when we could sometimes add lemon juice! I think the Water Challenge was really fun, and we should do it again next year!

Promoting “Salud”: CLOCC Focuses on Latino Health

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Daney Ramirez and Jaime Arteaga

By Jaime Arteaga, CLOCC Community Programs Coordinator, and Daney Ramirez, CLOCC Food Environment Coordinator

On February 7, 2014. DePaul University hosted the Health Disparities and Social Justice Conference.  With a special focus on Latino health, the conference offered a valuable space for dialogue among a range of health and community experts who share DePaul’s mission to address social injustices and community health practices in marginalized groups. Presenters provided a training opportunity to increase public health skills in identifying and addressing a wide variety of health disparities in diverse communities.  We are excited to participate and represent CLOCC at this event.

I (Jaime) was a panelist for the ¡Vive Tu Vida! A Model for Creating Healthy Social Experiences and Systems in Low Socio-Economic Status Hispanic Communities workshop where I highlighted the importance and need for walkable communities to promote active transportation by residents.  To support this, CLOCC has a Neighborhood Walkability Assessment Tool that offers straightforward solutions that help lay the foundation for living an active, safe and healthy lifestyle. Participants also learned about Active Transportation’s Better Blocks work which produces community walking ambassadors and promote walking groups; The American Heart Association’s Walking Paths program which uses a fun online tool and phone app to design free and safe routes in communities that promotes walking, brings neighbors together, and provides valuable history lessons; and LISC’s Play Streets initiative that activates community space and spurs physical activity in communities that either lack green space or safe space for residents to enjoy.  At the end of the session, participants were able to define and apply steps in the assessment process, test an online tool to create customized paths in their communities, and learn how to become walking advocates in their neighborhoods.

I (Daney), along with CLOCC School and Community Initiatives Manager Anna Barnes, presented findings from our Healthy Mobile Vending project.  As a part of Healthy CPS, our Healthy Mobile Vending Project works to provide education and support to schools and mobile food vendors at twenty-five K-8 elementary schools located on the Southwest side of Chicago.  Currently, a significant number of CPS students, primarily in predominately Latino communities, have access to a large variety of foods and beverages sold by mobile food vendors before and after school.   As such, this project primarily focuses on building the capacity of mobile food vendors to offer and sell healthy food items, by empowering them to understand the importance of topics such as healthy eating, nutrition labels, and recipes modifications.  The goal of the project is to increase the availability of healthy options available from mobile food vendors for these students. CLOCC works to achieve this goal through a number of intervention strategies including: offering training and technical assistance to vendors, engaging parents and students in nutrition workshops, launching a school based social marketing campaign that promotes healthy snacking, distributing educational and promotional materials and building community-wide support. Those strategies, as well as lessons learned from the project were discussed.

This was a great opportunity to not only share CLOCC’s walkability and mobile vending work, but also to learn about other important initiatives going on in Chicago that support Latino health (or salud in Spanish).   Want to know more about CLOCC’s work?  Contact Jaime at jarteaga@luriechildrens.org or Daney at deramirez@luriechildrens.org.

Supporting the Blueprint at Belmont-Cragin Elementary School

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Dennis Peters

By Dennis Peters, Guest Blogger

Dennis Peters is a physical education teacher at Belmont-Cragin Elementary School in Chicago.

Belmont-Cragin Elementary School is a PK-8 school located on the northwest side of Chicago.  We have 629 students in grades ranging from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade.  We have worked with CLOCC staff for the past several years in our efforts to meet the HealthierUS Schools Challenge.  (We have achieved Bronze status but are still working toward Gold!) In 2013, CLOCC released a ten-year plan for Chicago called the Blueprint for Accelerating Progress in Childhood Obesity Prevention in Chicago: The Next Decade, and I read the schools recommendations with great interest.  They are in line with the work we are doing here at Belmont-Cragin, so I am happy to share our efforts to support the Blueprint recommendations here at our school.

Our Principal, Stacy Stewart, has always been a champion, recognizing that an improved Physical Education (P.E.) curriculum and getting students more active throughout the school day has academic benefits for the students.  She supported my initiative to adopt a new evidence-based P.E. curriculum that engages students in more moderate to vigorous physical activity than our previous curriculum did. This adoption of a more vigorous P.E. program supports Goal 1 for Schools in the Blueprint: Ensure all schools in Chicago support healthy eating and physical activity for students.

We have gone even further.  Here are just a few of the initiatives we have implemented that support Goal 1 of the Blueprint:

  • Daily classroom physical activity through a program that includes “deskercises” for our K-5 classes
  • A 20-minute walking program before ISAT testing last spring, including the distribution of water bottles to the students and education for the staff on the importance of water and exercise
  • Nutrition education and lunch menus that follow USDA requirements
  • A healthy celebrations policy so school and classroom celebrations are healthier
    for students

I attribute the trend toward health, wellness, and enhanced physical education in our school to strong leadership from the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Office of Student Health and Wellness. This office works to increase the quality of health services and wellness environments through collaboration, and has been assisting schools in enhance P.E. throughout Chicago.  Part of their focus has been on providing professional development for staff.  Since September 2012, the Physical Education Leadership Team (PELT), convened by CPS, has provided six professional development training days designed to familiarize teachers with enhanced P.E. and the neuroscience research supporting it.

Our health and wellness efforts have also been driven by the introduction of CPS’ 30+20+10 Program at our school.  This includes 30 minutes of daily P.E. for every student, 20 minutes of meaningful recess each day, and 10 minutes of physical activity in the classroom.  I have attended training for this entire program, and Mr. Pallante, one of our 7th grade teachers, is receiving training to be the coordinator of the classroom physical activity – or, as we like to call it, Movement Intervention.  All of these training efforts directly support Blueprint Objective 1-4: Increase capacity of school staff to implement physical activity and nutrition education strategies.

I am optimistic about the focus CPS has taken to enhance Physical Education, especially with the Chicago Board of Education’s passage of a new comprehensive P.E. policy in January of 2014.  However, I know many schools will face difficulties in light of CPS budget constraints.  We know we have to hire additional Physical Education teachers in order to have daily P.E. available to all students, and this could be a challenge.  While our resources may be tight, Belmont-Cragin is a school that has sought opportunities for collaboration and improvement and is seeing the results.

I encourage my students by showing them their improvements, and I make a big deal out of the strides that they make in their health and wellness.  I even showcase their achievements to the administration.  I am proud of my students, fellow staff, and administration at Belmont-Cragin for making student health and wellness a priority.  I am also proud that we are part of a larger citywide initiative to put Chicago children on a healthier path by supporting the CLOCC Blueprint.  I encourage other schools to join us and to share your efforts with CLOCC.  Together, we can accelerate progress in childhood obesity prevention in Chicago through this work!

Parts of this post were adapted from the Illinois Public Health Institute Belmont-Cragin Elementary School case study.  We thank them for permission to use this content.

Reflections on 2013

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Adam Becker

by Adam Becker, PhD, MPH, Executive Director

As 2013 comes to a close, I want to take this opportunity to thank you all for another wonderful year of partnership and collaboration. This was a year of great successes and advancements for obesity prevention in Chicago and beyond. We can all be proud of our many accomplishments. While there are far too many to list here, I wanted to share just a few highlights:

•   Our Blueprint for Accelerating Progress in Childhood Obesity Prevention in Chicago: The Next Decade was released in January and was received with great enthusiasm. Over the first three quarters of 2013, CLOCC partner efforts have helped to advance 24 of the 48 objectives in the Blueprint, supporting 13 of the 17 total goals.

•   CLOCC led the development of recommendations for new requirements around nutrition, physical activity and screen time in licensed childcare, which were submitted to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services through the Illinois Early Learning Council. The proposed requirements were based on standards first adopted by the Chicago Board of Health in 2009 with support from CLOCC. We expect the new requirements to go into effect in July 2014.

•   CLOCC partners began working on the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative in 2010 under or federally-funded project, Healthy Places. In 2013, Healthy Places wound down but CLOCC staff continued to support 13 hospitals working toward Baby Friendly Designation. Hospitals across the city are setting policies and adopting practices that help women to breastfeed their babies from the moment of birth. With the great progress these hospitals are making, we anticipate at least one hospital will be designated in early 2014 making it the first Baby Friendly hospital in the City of Chicago.

•   CLOCC’s Community Programs Team trained over 20 community-based organizations on our Neighborhood Walkability Assessment Tool. Working in collaboration with the Active Transportation Alliance, we continue to support these organizations as they advocate for built environment improvements to increase access to safe opportunities for physical activity in their communities.

•   2013 also saw major additions to our collaborative work with Chicago Public Schools. We partnered with CPS’s Office of Student Health and Wellness on Healthy CPS to promote healthy school food environments through mobile vending and to evaluate their new three-year project to enhance physical education, funded by the U.S. Department of Education (Carol White Physical Education Program Grant).

CLOCC’s success is really in its partners – CLOCC is all of us and none of our accomplishments would be possible without the commitment, energy, and passion of the thousands of people who comprise the consortium. These and the many more successes we have accomplished are largely due to all of your efforts across the city (and beyond) to support healthy lifestyles for children and families. We appreciate your hard work and commitment to ensuring that children and their families across our city, state, and nation have the opportunity to live healthy and productive lives for generations to come. We wish you a happy and healthy holiday season and look forward to continued good work ahead in 2014!

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

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Joy Menhennett

by Joy Menhennett, Guest Blogger

We asked Joy Menhennett, Food and Nutrition Education Coordinator for La Casa Norte in Chicago, to write about her experience consulting with the CLOCC Research and Evaluation Interest Group to improve their evaluation effort.

Aveggies! A Nutrition Puppet Show is La Casa Norte’s program aimed to educate 3-5 year olds in Humboldt Park daycare centers about healthy eating habits. The program also engages youth from the community as paid puppeteers.  The puppeteers’ responsibilities are to perform the shows and to assist in the creation of the scripts alongside La Casa Norte staff and outside nutrition consultants. We currently have four shows, each with their own theme: Hydration, Sometimes Food/Anytime Food, Growing (Food), and The ABCs of Vitamins. Throughout our evaluation process, we have come across some challenges in obtaining data directly from participating children. The evaluation method we began with involved three pre and post questions that were asked out loud and followed by a show of hands to indicate the children’s responses. We had a few concerns with this because we wanted our evaluations to be both developmentally appropriate for the age group and help us accurately quantify the impact of our program on our young audience. We initially struggled with the wording of the questions and the thought that there might be other evaluation tools better suited for this age range.

Then, I attended the CLOCC Research and Evaluation Interest Group (REIG) meeting hoping to gain some insight on evaluation methods. I explained some of the difficulties we were having with evaluating the children at the daycares. The REIG discussed the request and decided to host a 45-minute consultation with our program before CLOCC’s June Quarterly Meeting to help us improve our evaluation efforts.

I explained to the REIG participants our concerns and challenges of evaluating 3-5 year olds and that we were open to modifying our methods if there were more child-friendly approaches that could be implemented. Some of the issues we were having with our current evaluation efforts were that there was the potential for social influence within the groups that could have affected who would raise their hand, and that the way we phrased the question or at what point we instructed them to raise their hands seemed to have an effect on the outcomes. We also found that some children seemed eager to always raise their hand regardless of the question and that some children wouldn’t engage and respond at all. Therefore, we were searching for something that could reduce the effects of these issues on our evaluation.

Throughout the consultation, we were provided with some great ideas and feedback from people who have had experience working with a similar age group. Some of the suggestions we received included: asking open-ended questions to the kids individually in order to get a better grasp on what specifics they have learned, printing out large pictures of healthy and unhealthy foods and having the children point to which photo is healthy, separating the kids into age groups and doing different age appropriate evaluations, telling the children to put their heads down before raising their hands to respond, or having the puppets with whom the children have been very engaged ask the evaluation questions. We were also provided with some resources for additional literature on the subject of evaluating children.

I am excited to report that we have begun to use the approach where our star puppet, Mike Mike, asks the pre and post questions to the children. We have completed our first trial run at a show, and it went well. The children’s connection with the puppet is apparent in the way in which they appeared to be more engaged while being asked and answering the questions, and they seemed to have a better understanding of what we were asking. We plan to continue to move forward with this method and may use some of the other suggestions as we rework the shows, but for now this is very promising. We appreciate all of the resources, insight, and ideas that were brought forth and will continue to utilize them as our program goes on.

For information on how you can arrange a REIG consultation for your program, contact Sarah Welch or Maryann Mason at CLOCC – swelch@luriechildrens.org or mmason@luriechildrens.org.

La Case Norte puppet show

A young audience member interacts with one of the puppeteers to talk about healthy eating while the puppet takes a break between shows.

CLOCC Released a Blueprint – Now What?

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Adam Becker

by Adam Becker, PhD, MPH, Executive Director

On January 8, CLOCC released a Blueprint for Accelerating Progress in Childhood Obesity Prevention in Chicago: The Next Decade.  The blueprint was developed over a year-long period.  During that time, we engaged our local and national leadership and advisors to identify national best-practice and evidence-based approaches.  CLOCC staff identified existing strategies that were being implemented by our many partners or new strategies that would complement the variety of interventions already under way.  We explored the emerging ideas with consortium members through formal and informal conversations and at our September 2012 Quarterly Meeting.  All of this collective wisdom was then synthesized into the document, which we hope will serve as a “one-stop-shop” for obesity prevention recommendations. 

Although the document is intended as a guide for Chicago (because that’s where CLOCC staff and the majority of our partners have the most depth of experience) we are confident that many of the recommendations will be relevant for communities across Illinois and beyond.  The feedback we have received so far is very encouraging, and it is an indication that consortium partners will be using the blueprint in a variety of ways.  But, you might be wondering – “CLOCC released the blueprint…now what?”

CLOCC staff is now hard at work identifying the goals, objectives, and strategies that we will prioritize as an organization.  We plan to share these specific priorities with all of you very soon.  We hope that CLOCC partners will see their own priorities in the blueprint (or use it to identify new ones), and share their progress in accomplishing their goals.  In that spirit, we would like you to take a look at the recommendations at the end of each section of the blueprint and do any or all of the following things:

• Let us know what goals/objectives/strategies/tactics your organization is already doing or planning to do in the near future by sending this information to blueprint@clocc.net.  We will add your plans to the list of current/ongoing efforts that are happening to support the goals and objectives in the blueprint and share our collective progress in advancing the blueprint recommendations.

• Let us know what additional goals/objectives/strategies/tactics your organization would be willing to take on in the future and whether or not you would take them on alone or would be interested in partnering with CLOCC staff and/or other consortium members by sending information and requests to blueprint@clocc.net.  We will work with you to find partners to help you in your efforts. 

• Use the blueprint (the research, the recommendations, or both!) to support your organization’s decision-making and fundraising – and tell us how it helps you  by sending updates to blueprint@clocc.net.  We will collect this information and share it with the consortium so others can get ideas on how they can use the blueprint in their own work. 

• Make your support of the blueprint and its recommendations public by allowing us to list you as an endorsing organization.  Send your endorsement to blueprint@clocc.net, and we will share the list on the CLOCC website and other materials.  We would love to include your organization there!

We hope that the release of the blueprint and the actions we all take can help to mobilize even further the childhood obesity prevention community in Chicago and beyond to achieve the goals and objectives we’ve presented, using the strategies and tactics we’ve identified, so collectively we can advance our work to create healthier children, families, and communities and truly accelerate the progress we’ve made so far.  We appreciate your consideration and look forward to working with you to make these recommendations realities!

Turning Wellness Policies into Action at a Healthy Teacher Network Workshop

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Rodney Tripplett

by Rodney Tripplett, School Programs Intern

On November 27, 2012, CLOCC’s Healthy Teacher Network hosted a workshop with the theme Wellness Policies into Action: Making Healthy Students Happen that was attended by teachers, counselors, and school nurses.  It began with a presentation of the highlights of the new Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Local School Wellness and Healthy Snack and Beverage policies from Annie Lionberger, CPS Senior Manager of Student Health and Wellness. This provided an opportunity for participants to gain a better understanding of the key requirements and guidelines of the new wellness policies. Participants also engaged in breakout sessions that focused on key components outlined in the wellness policy such as forming wellness teams, implementing activities to engage all students during recess, and integrating nutrition education into the school day. 

To provide tools for addressing the nutrition education requirement of the new CPS wellness policies, Rebecca Calendo, CLOCC Health Educator, facilitated a session focused on a nutrition and food access curriculum called Cultivating Change. This curriculum includes a series of lesson plans for middle school grades to develop students’ awareness of their food choices as well as food access and health issues that impact their communities. In the session, participants learned project ideas, recipes, and activities to launch a unit on food and health. 

Likewise, Urban Initiatives led an engaging session and dialogue on implementing activities to get students moving during recess. Play with Potential, a recess program developed by Urban Initiatives, includes games that are adaptable to a variety of spaces including outdoor fields, classrooms, and multi-use areas. Program Manager April Lillstrom encouraged school staff to engage all students in physical activity and emphasized the importance of recess as being safe, fun, and active as well as an opportunity to facilitate positive youth development. At the end of the session, participants experienced a sample of Play with Potential activities, gaining a better sense of how recess can be improved at their respective schools. 

Overall feedback on the workshop was very positive.  Participants particularly enjoyed the breakout sesson on how to initiate wellness councils. This included a success story from Kristen Janko, adult facilitator for Young Organizers Leading Others (YOLO) at Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy. YOLO tackles issues students want to address in the school and broader community. It began when students decided to raise funds to expand the school’s fitness center and add new equipment. YOLO has raised over $3,000 from fundraising efforts which include school health awareness dances, bake sales, and walk-a-thons. In the breakout, Kristen explained successes and challenges as well as tips for other schools wishing to replicate their work. Kristen strongly encouraged staff struggling to start a wellness council to involve youth, be open to their ideas, gain support from faculty and parents, and ensure student wellness groups are inclusive and accountable. 

As at past workshops, participants networked at the Resource Fair with a variety of community organizations that promote student wellness, healthy eating and physical activity. Twenty-one organizations participated – the largest number to date! Educators from the Lower West Side, North Lawndale, and Chicago Lawn/West Edison were among the most represented at the workshop, with many first time as well as returning staff.

The Healthy Teacher Network fall workshop provided tools to put the wellness policies into action, and we look forward to hearing how they help attendees to create healthier students throughout the city of Chicago.

Looking Back and Looking Forward: Our Tenth Year and Beyond

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Adam Becker

by Adam Becker, PhD, MPH, Executive Director

Welcome to the fourth and final quarter of our 10th anniversary year!  I hope you have found this year to be an exciting review of our decade of the accomplishments we have achieved together and an interesting examination of the things that make CLOCC tick.   This quarter, we are looking toward the future of childhood obesity prevention in Chicago and beyond. 

In CLOCC’s early days, under the energetic leadership of Matt Longjohn and the thoughtful guidance of our founder, Katherine Kaufer Christoffel, the staff’s main focus was building the consortium from dozens to hundreds, organization by organization.  We developed and implemented strategic approaches to demonstrating that there was indeed an obesity epidemic in Chicago and that collaboration among diverse partners was essential to combat it.  In some ways, our work now is easier – very few would argue that there isn’t an obesity epidemic!  The combination of our local surveillance and organizing work and an emerging national understanding of the scale of the epidemic has helped Chicago recognize that we have a serious health problem on our hands.  However, the work is also more complicated as we learn more about obesity and its many causes and risk factors.  It has become increasingly apparent that there is no single solution.

Early on, a lot of our collective efforts were focused on programming – short-term, specific programs and interventions developed to start or keep individual children on a path to a healthy lifestyle.  Our attention to individually-focused approaches and the recognition that  children and families needed sound information make good decisions when it came to nutrition and physical activity led us to develop the 5-4-3-2-1 Go!® healthy lifestyle message.  The message was intended to be a roadmap for children and families to follow to ensure healthy and active lives.  As the years unfolded and the national and local research and experience base matured, we began to recognize the importance of altering the environments in which children and families find themselves – making health easier where kids and families live, work, learn, and play.  Known as policy, systems, and environmental change (PSE) strategies, these approaches support communities with the goal of making healthy options the default options.  5-4-3-2-1 Go! public education remains a foundation of what we do as a consortium, but it is now squarely supported by environmental change solutions that help families to achieve these recommendations more easily.  Our Healthy Places initiative is firmly rooted in the promotion of PSE strategies.

As the decade progressed, new research also emerged indicating that our initial focus on the three to five year old caused us to miss important opportunities to start prevention early in life.  An important study by Elsie Taveras showed that weight gain in the first six months of life was more predictive of weight at age 3 than was weight at birth.  Staff and partners began to look at emerging approaches across the country to reach children from “day 1” and even reach their parents during or just before pregnancy.  Breastfeeding emerged as an important strategy that we needed to support, and a focus on childcare institutions as a key context for obesity prevention solidified.  We created the Early Childhood Working Group to guide the consortium in these new enterprises. 

More and more science continues to emerge about the role that access to unhealthy foods and beverages plays in the obesity epidemic – that improving access to healthy options was necessary but not sufficient if we were really going to succeed at reducing childhood obesity rates in Chicago.  Following the lead of national organizations, we have begun to look at effective approaches to reducing the “at-your fingertip” access to foods and beverages high in calories from fat and sugar but low in nutritional value and to partnering with childcare, schools, workplaces, and city government to strike a better balance between access to healthier and less healthy foods and beverages.  In a similar vein, the field of obesity prevention practitioners has begun to look to non-traditional partners for increasing access to safe opportunities for physical activity. This involves partnering with land use planners, transportation professionals, and the business sector to increase access to parks, playgrounds, safe streets, and sidewalks where people, and especially children, can walk, run, ride, and engage in other forms of activity. 

Throughout this tenth anniversary year, we have been taking stock, asking questions, and doing some serious strategic thinking.  We have had three retreats involving staff, leadership, and national expert advisors to explore where the data and evidence suggest we must go in the coming decade.  We have gathered feedback from the consortium along the way through various means to ensure that these emerging plans are grounded in the experience and lessons learned of the many partners that make CLOCC what it is – a thriving, ever-growing national model for comprehensive, community-based childhood obesity prevention.  All of this information has been sifted and sorted, and it is the basis for our planning for the next decade.  New approaches to public education, refined strategies for policy and environmental change, innovative partnerships beyond the traditional obesity prevention advocates and practitioners, a strengthening focus on early childhood approaches, and effective methods for reducing access to and promotion of unhealthy foods and beverages will all be part of this next decade of work.  And, as ever, we will remain open to new ideas, emerging research and evidence, and the increasing collection of local and national best practices so the next decade is grounded in the many successes and lessons of our past, but also full of yet uncharted and endless possibility.  We are putting the final touches on a “blueprint for accelerating progress in childhood obesity prevention in Chicago,” and we are very excited to present it at the December 6 Quarterly Meeting.   We look forward to unveiling our plans with you, the culmination of this year of reflection and information gathering.  And we are inspired by the emerging vision of what we can do together in 2013 and beyond to achieve them!