Fat fight: Cook County gets $16M to battle obesity
Saturday, March 20, 2010
by Steve Metsch
We are too fat.
And Cook County wants to help us lose weight.
The county Friday was awarded a two-year, $16 million federal grant
for obesity prevention.
The money comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of
2009, said Dr. Stephen Martin Jr., chief operating officer of the county
public health department. It will be used for programs in suburban Cook
County that aim to fight obesity, he said.
About 40 percent of children and 63 percent of adults in suburban
Cook are either obese or overweight, he said.
"We have more obese and overweight adults than the entire population
of Montana," Martin said. Montana's population was 974,989 in July 2009,
according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Martin and Cristal Thomas, regional director of the U.S. Department
of Health and Human Services, announced the grant at Revere Intermediate
School, 12331 S. Gregory St., Blue Island.
The school was selected for the announcement because it promotes
fitness, Blue Island Mayor Donald Peloquin said.
Students there and at nearby Revere Elementary School are encouraged
to walk or ride bikes to and from school, Principal Bob Hildreth said.
It eases traffic and promotes good health, he said.
Sixty percent of kids in Blue Island walk or bike to school, Peloquin
"This is an older, established town. People here walk everywhere," he
Martin, who stays trim by working out regularly at the
Homewood-Flossmoor Racquet & Fitness Club with his 14-year-old
daughter, said obesity is costly in many ways.
It is linked with increased risk of diabetes, hypertension, cancer
and heart disease, he said.
"We spend $3.5 billion a year in Illinois on health related costs
because of obesity," said Martin, of Country Club Hills.
Martin said Cook County School District 130, with a fitness
reimbursement program for employees, is a good example for groups who
might want to apply for a cut of the federal money.
District 130 reimburses its 600 employees $100 each annually for
fitness-related expanses such as joining a health club or Weight
Watchers, Supt. Raymond Lauk said.
A total of $372.8 million in federal money was awarded Friday to 44
communities nationwide, Thomas said.
Cook County Board member Deborah Sims (D-Chicago) urged parents to
get their children to play outside.
"When we were younger, we didn't have the GameBoys or TV time kids
have today. We played games outside. I recall my cousin rolling a tire
down the street," Sims said.