CMRC Children's Memorial Research Center

SHAPE UP it takes a village
Involve community in battle against fat
The research director of Chicago's program fighting the war on fat advocates inclusion.
Linda Shrieves | Sentinel Staff Writer
March 25, 2008
A number of Central Florida organizations are trying to form a consortium to tackle the problem of childhood obesity as a community.

The local effort will be modeled, in part, on the efforts of CLOCC, the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children, an umbrella group that marshals resources in the city to fight the war on fat from many angles.

Central Florida is one of four communities that have been selected to receive coaching from CLOCC executives, to show Orlando-area hospitals and health educators how to build a similar coalition that can tackle childhood obesity.

Recently, Dr. Katherine Christoffel, a professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University's medical school and medical and research director of CLOCC, talked with Orlando Sentinel reporter Linda Shrieves.

Question: Why is a consortium an important way to attack the problem?

Answer: This is a problem that cuts across multiple sectors and levels of society. In other words, it's not just one thing that causes childhood obesity.

The problem is that there are so many things that contribute to the risk for childhood obesity. I often describe it as a perfect storm. Now there's one car per adult in the family and there's computers and there's video games and a government subsidy of corn, which makes fast food cheap, and on and on and on. There are numerous things that have happened over the last generation which have fueled this epidemic. So we were pleased to have the opportunity to address it the way it needs to be addressed, in this comprehensive fashion.

Q: How do you start tackling such a large topic?

A: We selected 10 communities in Chicago . . . and we have tried to pull together organizations in those communities to address healthy lifestyles in those neighborhoods. We also did a survey that identified obstacles to obtaining healthy food -- such as a lack of supermarkets in some neighborhoods -- and high levels of excessive TV viewing and so on.

Q: What types of programs work? Can you describe some of the things you've tried?

A: We've worked with the YMCAs and Boys & Girls Clubs to advertise their family nights and other affordable options. There's the Producemobile, which is a project of the greater Chicago Food Depository that sends four or five vans around the city to deliver free surplus produce once a month. Local communities have to unload them and distribute the food and find the place and line up the volunteers.

There's also a Market Basket program that distributes affordable produce on a weekly basis. The basket, which costs about $15, provides 12 to 18 different types of produce and enough produce to feed a family of four for about a week.

To see the complete interview, go to

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