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

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DePaul University sign

by Elizabeth Katta, Meredith Jones, and Carolyn Jillson, Guest Bloggers

For the past two years, CLOCC has served as a 9-month practicum site for Master of Public Health students from DePaul University. After participating in an application and interview process, the students are matched with a position and site supervisor. This year, we hosted three talented students: Elizabeth Katta, Evaluation Intern; Meredith Jones, Schools Intern; and Carolyn Jillson, Advocacy Programs Intern. We are very grateful for their contribution to our work and their reflections below demonstrate the experience was also meaningful for each student.

Elizabeth Katta – As CLOCC’s Research and Evaluation intern, I was excited to see how a data driven organization conducts research and shares its results with Chicago partners. Working with Dr. Maryann Mason, Community and Evaluation Research Director, and Sarah Welch, Evaluation Manager, provided me the opportunity to take part in various activities within the Consortium, including data collection, community trainings, and organizational meetings. One of my favorite experiences was a SOPLAY (System for Observing Play and Leisure Activity in Youth) training at the Chicago Children’s Museum at Navy Pier. Sarah, Becca Calendo (CLOCC’s Health Educator) and I demonstrated a simple method to quantify activity in enclosed spaces. The fun, interactive activity demonstrated the Consortium’s dedication to providing useful services to their community partners. The bulk of my time at CLOCC was spent collecting data for my Capstone thesis, centered on an evaluation of CLOCC’s first breastfeeding study with the PCC Wellness clinic in the Austin community. I was able to see how community-based research is conducted as well have an opportunity to exercise my developing public health skills. My practicum time was invaluable because of these opportunities, and I hope to build upon the skills that CLOCC has helped me develop.

Meredith Jones – Serving as the School Systems Intern at CLOCC over the past year has afforded me the opportunity to understand the challenges and triumphs Chicago schools, teachers, principals, and PE teachers experience in sustaining a healthy classroom. Specifically through the Healthy Teacher Network, I enhanced practical skills such as event coordination and organized networking, evaluative skills when constructing instruments for program and workshop evaluation, and data collection and analysis as I compiled and streamlined large amounts of data on schools, individual teachers, and Chicago communities. Getting to know the structure and admirable objectives of the Healthy Teacher Network , which provides an environment conducive to teacher training and the exchange of valuable ideas for educators to use in their classrooms, will aid in my practice as a public health practitioner concerned with examining the structural determinants of health and coming to solutions for my community. The highlight of my time with CLOCC and the School Systems Working Group was the opportunity to interact directly with Chicago teachers who are passionate about implementing health-based strategies like physical activity breaks and nutrition education in their classrooms in order to improve the lives of their students. Their energy and devotion to the Healthy Teacher Network and CLOCC’s mission is truly contagious and emphatic.

Carolyn Jillson – I have really enjoyed working with CLOCC for my practicum at DePaul. I worked with Christine Bozlak, CLOCC’s Advocacy Program Manager, who provides technical assistance to the City of Chicago Inter-Departmental Task Force on Childhood Obesity (IDTF). I worked with CLOCC and IDTF to create a business plan for an IDTF Wellness Campus, a community-level intervention to coordinate and improve programing to improve health outcomes in neighborhoods with an especially high prevalence of childhood obesity. I found this project challenging, in that it required a big picture vision while I had to stay focused on the limitations of what is actually feasible. I learned a great deal about environmental approaches to complex health problems. Through this project I also became more familiar with a variety of governmental agency programs and partnerships and I was encouraged by the variety of effective and innovative programs and services currently being implemented in Chicago.

Thanks to our great DePaul practicum students for your enthusiasm, dedication, and hard work!  For more information on the Master of Public Health program at DePaul University, visit their website.

What Makes CLOCC Tick: 10 Years of Community Partnerships

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Adam Becker

by Adam Becker, PhD, MPH, Executive Director

Partners and friends,

April marks the beginning of the second quarter of our 10th anniversary year! This quarter, we are focusing on two of the hallmarks of the consortium’s operations – our community work and partnerships as well as public education in community settings.

Community partners are really what make CLOCC a consortium. When we started ten years ago, community organizations and advocates were among the first groups to get involved with the consortium and help to spread the word about the growing obesity epidemic in Chicago. The partnerships that formed and the voices of community partners shaped CLOCC’s mission, priorities, and intervention strategies. At the beginning, we literally built CLOCC organization by organization until we honed community intervention strategies that allowed us to bring partners together more effectively. Once a critical mass of organizations engaged, we formed working groups with specific areas of focus and expertise.

Working Groups continue to be an important engine for the consortium. Although they emerge and dissipate as the needs and interests of the consortium change, and they take different approaches to process and structure, all of them serve three primary functions:

• Keeping the consortium connected to the particular sector they represent and ensuring that the information and resources the consortium has is made available to that sector.

• Ensuring that the consortium as a whole learns from the expertise of those sectors.

• Helping to develop effective strategies for obesity prevention within that sector – sometimes leading to specific funded strategies.

While CLOCC has been and will remain open to partners from communities across Chicago and beyond, leadership agreed early on that we needed to hone our understanding of, and strategies for, addressing the challenges and opportunities for obesity prevention at the neighborhood level. To that end, we partnered with organizations in a few diverse Chicago communities. In 2004, we identified six communities (our “Vanguard Communities”) in which to place neighborhood-based staff and pilot community interventions. We expanded to ten Vanguard Communities in 2006. These community-based staff and their partners helped the consortium as a whole to learn effective ways to reach children, families, and the organizations that serve them. We learned what schools needed and contributed, how parks figure into the community landscape, who was involved in healthy food access activities, and what community priorities were for research and advocacy. In Humboldt Park, our partnership with the Puerto Rican Cultural Center and the Sinai Urban Health Institute, combined with funding from the Otho S. A. Sprague Memorial Institute, resulted in the development of Community Organizing for Obesity Prevention (CO-OP), a key coalition-building strategy of our community-level work. CO-OP was expanded through iterations in Englewood and Pilsen. The CO-OP strategy mobilizes existing community leaders and organizations, supports their collaboration to develop intervention strategies, promotes healthy eating and physical activity at the community level, and links clinical practices to community programs. Specific strategies that are locally relevant emerge under the guidance of CO-OP coalition leaders and members help identify and connect to approaches from other neighborhoods. The CO-OP HP experience is described in-depth in a book edited by staff at SUHI and will soon appear in a new edition of a classic book on community organizing for public health. Although the formal CO-OP structures in the three neighborhoods have merged into other local initiatives, CO-OP remains an option for CLOCC’s engagement in new communities.

In 2011, after a year of review and discussion with CLOCC staff and leadership, we decided to expand from a community-by-community model to a regional approach. Because the field of obesity prevention has matured and we have identified an emerging set of strategies in use in Chicago and across the country that have the most promise for creating change, we are shifting our approach in order to support and engage with more communities across Chicago to ensure that they too have access to this promising set of approaches. Our Community Networkers, formerly assigned to one specific vanguard community, have transitioned into a new role: Community Program Coordinators. In this new role, CLOCC’s community-based staff will connect to more Chicago neighborhoods and bring specific strategies, along with training and support to increase the likelihood of success to partners who are committed to obesity prevention and health-related work. Beginning this quarter, Community Program Coordinators will begin working in city regions – North, West, Southwest, Northwest, and South. We are excited about the new relationships we are already beginning to establish as a consortium as we move to this new model and look forward to connecting to partners in new and innovative ways.

One of the biggest resources we are able to bring to our community partners is our public education message, 5-4-3-2-1 Go!®,  and the tools for training and dissemination that come along with it. The message was developed by CLOCC in 2004, and to date thousands of community partners have been trained on it. Our vision is one of “surround sound messaging” in which children, families, and those who interact with them will see our message everywhere they go, reminding them of the five important elements of a healthy lifestyle – designed with young children in mind but healthy for everyone. To realize this vision, we blanketed Chicago with 5-4-3-2-1 Go! posters, billboards, and CTA advertising in the fall of 2009 as part of a citywide advertising campaign. Hundreds of CLOCC partners helped with distribution, participated in special events, and disseminated the message to their own constituencies. 5-4-3-2-1 Go! materials have been downloaded in 49 states and 18 countries around the world. The demand for 5-4-3-2-1 Go! became so great that we brought on a full-time Health Educator in 2009 to focus exclusively on message training and outreach.

The future of our community work and public education outreach looks bright. Our Healthy Places initiative has helped us to develop and hone a diverse set of environmental change strategies to improve access for all Chicagoans to healthy food and safe opportunities where they live, work, learn, and play – especially in those communities where access is insufficient and obesity-related health disparities occur. Many of these strategies are based on those we piloted in CLOCC’s early work in the vanguard communities. We expect to provide training and technical support to community organizations across the city to support implementation of these new strategies. We will continue to offer free trainings several times a year so interested organizations can learn about 5-4-3-2-1 Go! and explore ways to integrate it into their programming. We are also developing a pilot project to work with organizations to integrate 5-4-3-2-1 Go! more deeply at their organizations in addition to using it in their programs; ensuring that organizational practices, policies, and environments are aligned with the message. As interest in the message grows locally and across the region and nation, we will explore new opportunities to support its use.

CLOCC staff and leadership are grateful to all of the community partners who help keep our consortium strong and vibrant. We are humbled by all that they have taught us. We look forward to new and exciting ways to build on and expand this critical element of our collective work. As a special way to celebrate our community partners during our 10th anniversary, we have launched the We are CLOCC contest with a $2,500 prize – go here for more information.

Next quarter, we will continue along the theme of partnerships and take a deeper look at some of our very unique partnerships beyond those in geographic communities. My July blog post will explore the consortium’s work with corporations, government, schools, and the clinical sector. Talk to you again soon!

Planting a Seed (Grant) and Watching It Grow

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Amy Bohnert

Amy Bohnert

by Amy Bohnert, PhD, Guest Blogger 

As part of our 10th anniversary first-quarter focus on data and research, we asked 2006 seed grant recipient Amy Bohnert, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychology at Loyola University Chicago, to write about her 2006 seed grant project and what happened next.

It started as an idea that my best friend and I casually discussed over dinner. What about designing a plate that can help children and families learn about healthy eating? We could even do an experiment to determine whether it works in changing behavior. This was the beginning of the Nutri-plate. The first step was applying for a seed grant from CLOCC to get the money to support the pilot research. Five years later, we had a publication detailing the promising findings from pilot work in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior and had founded a company that sells the Nutri-plate. How did we get there?

The most important step was obtaining the funding from CLOCC to develop and evaluate the plate. This happened by applying for a CLOCC seed grant.  My proposed pilot, Evaluating the Impact of Nutritionally-Designed Dining Ware on Food Choices: A Pilot Study, was funded in June of 2006. In that study, sixteen African American adolescents (mean age = 12.94 years; 66% male) were randomized to participate in either plate design or nutrition education sessions. Adolescents’ input was used to create a dinner plate that would show healthy amounts and types of food that should be eaten at meals, what became known as the Nutri-plate. Participants’ food selection and intake was also evaluated. Adolescents indicated the Nutri-plate should include simple yet colorful visual and textual information about healthful eating. We also found that when using the Nutri-plate, participants selected less food overall, more fruit, and more broccoli au gratin. Participants with higher BMIs selected a greater amount of healthful food when using the Nutri-plate.

Whenever we presented this data, we always got the same question, “Where can we buy one of these plates?” At first, we did not have an answer. The Nutri-plate we manufactured for the study was not cost-effective at more than $20 per plate. We could locate manufacturers, but how could we decide if we should take the risk and invest the capital needed to sell the Nutri-plate? We decided that it would be good to do more market research before proceeding. In June of 2008, we exhibited the Nutri-plate at a childhood obesity conference in Los Angeles, CA and received a very positive response. Based on this, we decided to create a company and pursue the commercial side of our research venture.

Although we had been warned that it would be a long process until we actually could sell plates, we never quite believed it. Much like the process of research, setting up a company to sell a product involved many complex steps. Were it not for our enthusiasm, we might have easily given up. We learned how to write articles of organization to form a corporation, create a website, apply for a trademark, set up simple accounting practices, pay sales tax, secure product liability insurance, and write up a business contract. A critical piece in this process was having friends who were willing to consult with us when we got stuck. We tried to find ways to distinguish our product by publishing the data demonstrating its effectiveness in changing behaviors.

The payoff has not (yet) been monetary—we are still in the “red.” We do have customers all over the world contact us – Canada, Brazil, Costa Rica, England, Australia – with inspiring stories and interest in our product. Some of our favorite stories are close to home. My daughter and many of her friends joyfully takes their Nutri-plates to school every day. These are the rewards, but the ultimate prize is getting children and their families to discuss, engage, and enjoy healthy eating.  To think this all started from my CLOCC seed grant in 2006 – from small seed grants, great things can grow!


The Nutri-plate promotes healthy eating by indicating the portions and types of food that make up a healthy meal.

Revealing the Research: 10 Years of Being Data-Driven and Evidence-Based

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Adam Becker

by Adam Becker, PhD, MPH, Executive Director

Happy New Year!  2012 is an especially happy new year for CLOCC as it marks our 10th year as a Consortium collaborating on childhood obesity prevention in Chicago and beyond!  I hope that as partners you will feel as proud of our shared accomplishments as we do as staff members.  Throughout this 10th year we will be reviewing our past successes, highlighting our current collaborative work, and visioning for our future. We have several special events and projects planned that will unfold in 2012 to commemorate this important 10-year milestone – watch for details in the coming weeks and months!  We have organized these activities around quarterly themes that have been important for CLOCC as we’ve grown since 2002 and that will carry us into the next 10 years. In our first quarter, we reflect on data and evidence.  These were instrumental in the consortium’s origins as we built our efforts on what we knew and what we still needed to learn about childhood obesity in Chicago.  We will also focus this quarter on research and how it undergirds our data-driven and evidence-based approach.

So first, I would like to remind you of where we began.

Thanks to the vision of our founder, Dr. Katherine Kaufer Christoffel, and initial funding from the Otho S.A. Sprague Memorial Institute, CLOCC came into being in late 2002. Our first meeting drew about 40 people from across the city – pediatricians, staff from community-based organizations, researchers, representatives from city agencies, and others. We were a diverse group even then! 

It may be hard to believe now, but back in 2002 we faced the hurdle of convincing people that the childhood obesity epidemic was actually real, so data and evidence have always been important to CLOCC. The gathering and dissemination of data served us well at the very beginning when, under the leadership of our founding Executive Director, Matt Longjohn, we started to build our consortium. Most people had no idea where the city stood in terms of childhood obesity rates, but our interest in finding out helped Kathy and Matt to make the case to potential partners that they should get involved in this growing collaborative effort. In fact, back in 2002 the prevalence data were scarce, but even the little we had told an alarming story.  The 1999 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data indicated that 13% of children ages 6 – 11 and 14% of adolescents ages 12 – 17 were obese.   Our goals back then were to share the data we had to motivate individuals and organizations to join the consortium and to work toward collecting more.

A major early success was the release of the first citywide prevalence data for Chicago children entering school for the first time (children aged 3 – 7) at the end of 2003. They were collected through a partnership with the Chicago Public Schools and the Archdiocese of Chicago under the leadership of research scientist Dr. Maryann Mason, who now serves as our Community Research and Evaluation Director. The data showed that nearly one quarter (24%) of Chicago children were entering school already obese — two and a half times the national average at that time. This data release literally put CLOCC on the map, with coverage on the front page of both the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times.

Since those early days we have worked hard as a consortium to keep our collective eyes on obesity rate data. We held the Child Health Examination Surveillance System Summit in 2008 to develop statewide consensus and gather recommendations to create a surveillance system using data from the child health examination forms. While attention to the issue has ebbed and flowed over the years, the state is showing re-emerging interest. The Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity, a statewide coalition of organizations focused on obesity prevention for all Illinoisans, identified surveillance as one of three top priorities for their first year of action. The city is making great strides as well, with a five-year inter-agency agreement between the Chicago Department of Public Health and Chicago Public Schools to look at prevalence rates now and into the future. These advances have grown out of our consortium’s initial work and are laying the groundwork for a system that would provide up-to-date and annual  obesity prevalence data.  These data will help us as a state and city to allocate resources strategically, where prevention and intervention are needed most – decisions that are best made when data-based.

CLOCC staff and partners conducted a second round of surveillance in 2009. The great news was that we found a reduction of 2% in the overall prevalence of obesity among children aged 3-7 years old. The not-so-great news was that even with this new prevalence rate of 22%, we were still twice the national rate of 10.4%. Knowing that our staff would not have the resources to continue to do this surveillance at the frequency with which it is needed, we have been advocating for the state and the city to create a sustainable system for monitoring child health statistics, with a focus on obesity.

But data and surveillance have not been our only activities related to generating knowledge about the issue. In 2003, we kicked off our Seed Grant Program.  CLOCC Seed Grants provide small amounts of funding to support the development of local research and evaluation efforts to contribute to our knowledge base and to increase the capacity of local investigators to get increased funding to continue or expand their work.  In 2007, we revised the Seed Grant Program to fund fewer projects but at greater amounts.  In 2010, we released a report on the impressive work done through our Seed Grant award recipients.  A number of our grantees have been able to publish in national journals, influence local policy, expand local programs, and obtain large federal grants to continue their work. 

Here in the CLOCC office, some of our staff members have also conducted research; some on behalf of our partners.  For example, I led a study to help the City of Chicago Inter-Departmental Task Force on Childhood Obesity understand that impact that the new standards for food and physical activity in childcare centers have on center practices in low-income communities across Chicago. The findings of this study have already begun to help shape education and training mechanisms for Chicago’s childcare providers and have contributed to a statewide interest in the role that childcare providers can play in the health of the very young. Other research we conducted in our first ten years has included exploration of expanding obesity prevention services tied to distribution of free produce, evaluation of the Open Streets initiative which closed street routes to auto traffic to create safe places for physical activity in five Chicago communities and evaluation of a Chicago Park District program designed to provide opportunities for increased physical activity in after school programming.  We’ve also conducted multiple waves of a community health survey in Humboldt Park and Englewood and done a baseline survey in Pilsen

Looking to the future of our data, research and evaluation activities, we will continue to provide evaluation services and capacity building to CLOCC partners.  We will continue to support CDPH and CPS as they develop a system for reporting on childhood health indicators, including BMI.  We will continue to encourage the State of Illinois to develop a similar system.  And we will continue to monitor and disseminate the most up-to-date research from across the country to help us locally to remain on the cutting edge of best-practice obesity prevention strategies.  You can also look forward to further changes to our Seed Grant program – with a more specific focus on policy, systems, and environmental change – an important emerging element of our work in Chicago communities.

And this brings me to next quarter’s theme!  Look for a new post from me in April when I will talk about the lifeblood of CLOCC, our community partnerships – past, present, and plans for the future. Talk to you then!

Our 2003 data release was the lead story in the December 3, 2003 issue of the Chicago Sun-Times.

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

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Katherine Kaufer Christoffel

Katherine Kaufer Christoffel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taking Walkability to the Streets at the Safe Routes to School National Conference

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Grant Vitale

by Grant Vitale, Community Programs Manager 

CLOCC Community Networkers Ed Boone, Elvia Rodriguez-Ochoa, and Miguel Morales and I recently attended the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) National Conference.  It was held on August 16-18, 2011 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The Safe Routes to School National Conference now in its third year was hosted by the National Center for Safe Routes to School and the Safe Routes to School National Partnership. 

Ed and Miguel presented a Mobile Workshop on Coalition Building and the Neighborhood Walkability Assessment Tool under the conference heading, Coalition Building and SRTS Programming.  Ed’s presentation focused on the successes of neighborhood coalition building in West Humboldt Park and Miguel’s presentation focused on the Neighborhood Walkability Assessment Tool and how to use it in community neighborhoods.  People from a variety of organizations and disciplines attended the workshop.  They turned out to be a group that was quite engaged and interested in the information presented.  They commented on how interesting the CLOCC tool was and how it makes one think about intersections and blocks in a completely different way.  It was great to take them out on the streets and show them how to assess the walking environment.

The SRTS National Conference offered walking tours and bike tours of Minneapolis as well as mobile workshops.  The mobile workshops addressed a number of topics such as design solutions to increase cycling and safety and assessing walkability for users of ages and abilities.  There was also breakout sessions on a wide variety of topics including injury prevention and social equality.  Antonio Rosell from Community Design Group in Minneapolis conducted a presentation on community participatory engagement, which gave great examples on how to ensure community member participation and input for different types of projects and plans.  Some of the concepts and ideas he presented will be very useful for the Networkers to use in neighborhoods when they are working to engage a wide variety of community members on a project.  Ed Ewing from Bicycle Club Cascade presented on the Major Taylor Project which is very successful in engaging youth in cycling in the Seattle area.  I especially enjoyed his presentation because it demonstrated the tremendous benefits of engaging youth in cycling.  The youth learned how to ride bikes and they acquired bicycle maintenance skills.  They were also able to progress from just learning how to ride to participating in endurance rides, which was amazing to see.  This session definitely relates to our work in West Town.

For more information on walkability, visit the Walkability Assessment page on the CLOCC website.  For more information on Safe Routes to School, visit the Safe Routes to School National Partnership website.

SRTS conference

Miguel leads conference participants in a neighborhood walkability assessment

SRTS workshop

Miguel (left) and Ed present at their workshop

Promoting Health and Wellness at Jordan Elementary

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Claudia Olayo

by Claudia Olayo, Rogers Park Networker 

As the CLOCC Community Networker for the Rogers Park neighborhood in Chicago, I have the chance to work with local schools to help promote health and wellness.  One that I have worked with is Jordan Elementary Community School.  Here are some examples of projects we have done together. 

In May 2010, Jordan School completed a Healthy School Environment Assessment facilitated by CLOCC staff. Some of the participants included school administration, teachers, parents, the school’s nurse, lunch room managers, and a few upper grade students.

After the results of the assessment were shared with the group, it was decided that the first step to address some of the issues identified was the creation of a School Wellness Council. Some of the aforementioned participants became the founding members and, voila! The Wellness Council was formed and has been meeting on a monthly basis. The team agreed the first issue to tackle was a lack of drinking water availability to the students during the school day; making drinking water more accessible to all Jordan students was the solution. The Wellness Council decided to use a small amount of grant money allocated from CLOCC to purchase water coolers/crocks in the shape of basketballs and soccer balls, which were approved by the student members of the Council, to be placed in the cafeteria and the gym. The coolers have been well received by parents and especially the students.

Another project the Wellness Council took on was the planning and realization of a Healthy Family Night, where a friendly game of Loteria, a Mexican version of Bingo, was to be played as an alternative to the usual unhealthy chocolate bar/candy sale fundraising.

The evening of March 24, 2011, 25 families turned out to take part in the Healthy Family Night. Parents and children alike participated in an interactive 25-minute bilingual presentation on CLOCC’s 5-4-3-2-1 Go! message. There was also a food demonstration in which a community volunteer engaged children in preparing a simple greens and quinoa salad with apples and walnuts. The parents and children enjoyed the salad and took home a copy of the recipe. That healthy hour showcasing the 5-4-3-2-1 Go! message was followed by an hour of Loteria where some won prizes, others learned a few words in Spanish, and all had fun!

For more information on 5-4-3-2-1 Go! and to see the free tools available for download, visit the CLOCC website.

Bringing a Healthy Message (and Fake Food) to Families at the Chicago Children’s Museum

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Adam Paberzs

by Adam Paberzs, Health Education Intern

The Chicago Children’s Museum played host to a fun and family-oriented health and wellness fair on January 27, 2011 at Navy Pier. Kids and parents came from all over the city to learn about healthy habits, receive free screenings, and enjoy physical activities. I was there to represent CLOCC at the event.

The fair was an exciting and energetic event, and amidst the hustle and bustle, children and families found their way to my table to learn about 5-4-3-2-1 Go!™  – CLOCC’s public education campaign to promote healthy lifestyles for children. The CLOCC table offered an interactive visual representation of the 5-4-3-2-1 Go! message using tools like food models that illustrated each of the healthy lifestyle recommendations. Kids and parents alike couldn’t resist touching the food models and comparing the different examples of servings of fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy. The kids especially loved (and even tried to taste) the orange, cheese, and strawberry models. The milk models won over even the museum staff, who expressed genuine shock at the amount of fat found in whole milk compared to skim.

My interaction with parents led to lots of interesting questions such as, “Does rice milk and regular milk have the same amount of nutrients?”, “How much cheese is too much?”, and “Do chores count as physical activity?” One father shared his concern about the nutritional quality of the lunches being served at his son’s day-care center.  We discussed some of the challenges he encountered working with the day-care staff, and ideas for communicating the importance of moving toward healthier food options. It served as a reminder of the important role schools and childcare facilities play in getting children the nutrients they need to be healthy.

The Chicago Children’s Museum continues to partner with communities and organizations like CLOCC throughout the city to promote healthy, active lifestyles for children and their families. Every Thursday, CCM hosts a Free Family Night that allows kids and families to experience a range of cultural, educational, and health and wellness activities.  During Free Family Night, the museum uses different exhibits to encourage fun physical movement, health and wellness, and a spirit of exploration.

To learn more about the Chicago Children’s Museum, visit the museum’s website.  For more information and a list of available 5-4-3-2-1 Go! resources, check out CLOCC’s
5-4-3-2-1 Go! home page.

Digging Into the Connection Between Gardens and Classrooms at a Healthy Teacher Network Workshop

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by Mara Lazdins, School Programs Intern

Learning how to plant vegetables in milk crates lined with burlap bags or how to integrate a science lesson into growing herbs, left a positive impression on teachers who attended Healthy Teacher Network’s third workshop in October, 2010.

For the first time, a school hosted the event, which gave teachers the opportunity to experience a school culture that encourages wellness, being active and eating healthy. At the workshop, which took place at Academy for Global Citizenship (AGC), teachers toured the school grounds and learned how the teachers there incorporate the garden into all subjects including recess. Participants were also able to taste components of Chicago Public School’s recently revamped school lunch menu, which received positive reviews.

Like at past workshops, teachers were able to obtain resources on healthy eating and physical activity at the Resource Fair. Sixteen organizations were present offering tools, information, and other resources that teachers could take back to the classroom or implement within their school. Overall feedback revealed that participants enjoyed the school tour, garden, and learning about how AGC builds wellness and sustainability into the curriculum.

So far, over 80 schools have been represented at the three Healthy Teacher Network Workshops. These 80 schools represent 28 Chicago zip codes—with the highest number of teachers coming from West Town, Lower West Side/Bridgeport/McKinley Park, Logan Square and Rogers Park schools. Teachers have expressed that attending the Workshops has been an “invaluable networking opportunity”, “a great way to learn about what other teachers and other schools are doing”, and a way to gain “new ideas for their classrooms.”

For more information on the Healthy Teacher Network, visit its page on the CLOCC website.

Teachers enjoyed touring the school garden and hearing how AGC staff have incorporated it into classroom learning.


The Resource Fair was a great place to pick up information and hear about the work of neighborhood organizations.

A Cool Evaluation Project at the Shedd Aquarium

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Sarah Welch

by Sarah Welch MPH, Evaluation Manager

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

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

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

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