$4 million going to help Cook County trim the fat
Monday, January 31, 2011
by Victoria Johnson
At least a dozen Southland entities are among 41 in Cook County awarded a total of $4 million to fight obesity.
The money, from a federal grant to the Cook County
Department of Public Health and the Public Health Institute of
Metropolitan Chicago, was made available to schools, local governments,
hospitals and other community organizations to implement various
programs aimed at tamping skyrocketing obesity rates. Some of the main
areas of focus are:
Making healthy foods more available and unhealthy foods less available
Creating more safe and convenient places for walking, biking and other physical activities
Increasing opportunities for physical activity in schools
Supporting children in walking and biking to/from school
Increasing access to services for adults at risk or with chronic conditions, including obesity
Maternity nurses at Little Company of Mary
Hospital in Evergreen Park said they will use the $120,000 the hospital
received to reinforce the goals of being a “Baby Friendly” hospital, an
initiative guided by UNICEF to promote breast-feeding. This will include
training for hospital workers as well as education for new mothers.
“Breast-feeding really does promote better health
for the mom and the infant,” maternity nurse manager Mary Grimm said.
“If we can provide more education for breast-feeding, then we can have a
direct impact on the community.”
Community High School District 218, which includes
Eisenhower, Richards and Shepard high schools, got a $143,000 grant.
Anne Coffman, the district’s director of state and federal programs,
said decisions hadn’t been finalized but that she and the nurses at the
three high schools had some ideas about how to use the money.
“What we’re proposing is to set up and a run a
variety of intramural programs to promote healthy lifestyles among
students and possibly staff members,” she said.
The goal would be to reach students who don’t
participate in competitive sports. Coffman also was looking into
healthier food options.
“The biggest thing that we would like to do is
really work on the choices that we have available in the high schools,
primarily in the vending machines,” she said.
That would involve possibly subsidizing the healthy
choices already stocked in vending machines so they could be offered at
lower prices. Students don’t generally opt for the healthier snacks but
might with lower prices.
Reggie Greenwood, the South Suburban Mayors and
Managers Association’s director of economic development, said the
organization would promote zoning changes that would spur development in
a half-mile radius around transit hubs, such as Metra stations and
major bus stops.
“The more livable the streets and the more bike
paths and developments around transit sites in effect leads to more
walking and better lifestyle, and therefore better health,” he said.