Monday, April 1, 2013


So many excellent and galvanizing meetings, presentations, and experiences 2013 has brought me! No Child Left Inside, Poetry Out Loud, Pecha Kucha. And now presenting: The quarterly meeting of the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children (CLOCC).

This consortium brings together Chicago clinicians, educators, non-profit leaders in social, educational, and environmental fields, urban planners, and city representatives to develop and implement measures for improving Chicago children's health. Their approach is as varied as their participants: subgroups consider the issue in relation to early childhood needs, food access, physical activity, schools, policy, research, and public education. You can find their blueprint for the next decade here and many other resources here.

I attended because of my interest in integrating nature-based and other outdoors activity into the school day as part of formal education, as I've discussed before in earlier posts. (I am even more excited about this now, having just returned from an amazing and informative trip to Seattle last week! More on that--with pictures!--later.)

At the meeting, we heard anthropologist Howard Rosing, PhD speak about his research on cultural considerations related to food access, and a panel, composed of Kelly Lowry, PhD and Alicia Gonzalez of Lurie Children's Hospital/ Chicago Run, Rush University Medical Center's Brad Appelhans, PhD, and research consultant T. Nigel Gannon, PhD, discuss opportunities and challenges in community-based research design. As you can gather from all those name suffixes, the consortium values its relationships with university researchers and medical doctors--but what I find impressive and refreshing is that it appears equally committed to on-the-ground  implementation. When there is a gap between research and application the public loses faith in the value of the research and the researchers lose perspective on practical realities. And, on the other hand, when program developers do not regard authentic grounding in research to be important, programs can become idiosyncratic, narrow, or inconsistent.

Before the meeting adjourned, the interest groups reported on their work earlier that day (mostly, they reviewed the new blueprint, which had been published since the prior meeting) and announced their next meeting dates. I plan on attending the Health Promotion and Public Education meeting next week, and the Physical Activity and the Built Environment one at the end of the month.

The week prior to this meeting, I went to an exciting kick-off meeting for a new food cooperative being put together in Chicago, headed by the tireless and supersmart Greg Berlowitz. The prospect of a community gathering place based on healthy produce and locally produced goods is a welcome one in Chicago (sadly, my beloved town is pokey when it comes to environmental and food awareness, one of the reasons I am interested in building education around these issues)--and I see many possibilities for integrating educational programming.

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