$360,000 Grant Will Help Cook County Family Connection Get Residents Healthy

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The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) recently announced that Cook County Family Connection and 40 other organizations across the country have received $360,000 to implement a Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities project as part of a landmark national program to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic by 2015. Each community will receive the grant over four years to craft innovative solutions aimed at helping children and families lead healthier lives. More than 500 communities across the nation applied for the grant.

“One out of three children in Cook County is obese or overweight,” said Zoe Myers, Cook County Family Connection executive director. “Now the county has a way to fight back.”

The community projects are funded through Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities, an RWJF program that supports local efforts to improve access to affordable healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity for children and families.

“We’re above the state average on a lot of health issues, diabetes, obesity and hypertension,” said Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities program manager Lydia McDaniel in an interview with WALB TV and WCTV (Tallahassee). “We hope to get residents out and about, and active in the community with parks and gardens.”

Healthy food options are also limited in Cook County. There are no grocery stores in the city of Sparks, so residents must drive to a nearby town or shop at a convenience store. “This grant will help provide health food options that are limited,” said McDaniel. “We plan to provide both stationary and mobile markets to make fresh produce more accessible to residents.”

Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities, a national program of RWJF, focuses on changing policies and environments to support active living and healthy eating among children and families. The program places special emphasis on reaching children who are at highest risk based on race or ethnicity, income or geographic location.

Project leaders have recruited local partners, including academic and health institutions, faith-based groups, nonprofit organizations, chambers of commerce, urban planners, local parks departments, and school districts. With nine communities named as leading sites in 2008, the program now encompasses 50 sites in more than half of the states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

According to a media release issued by RWJF, more than 23 million children and adolescents in the United States—nearly a third of youth ages 2 to 19—are overweight or obese. Even among ages 2 to 5, the rate of overweight and obesity is 24 percent. Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities is a cornerstone of RWJF’s $500 million commitment to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic.

“These sites can help move the country toward a place where good health is built right into the environment,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., RWJF president and CEO. “All children, no matter where they live, should be able to jump on a bike and ride safely in their neighborhood or to school. They should be able to play in a well-maintained and crime-free park. And they and their families should be able to easily find—and afford—fresh, healthy foods.”

Read the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation news release.

Watch “Cook County Receives Grant to Fight Obesity” on WCTV.

Read “Cook County organization gets grant to help prevent child obesity” on WALB News 10.

Read more about Healthy Kids Healthy Communities in Cook County.

Visit the Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities Web site.


Zoe Myers
Executive Director
Cook County Family Connection

William Valladares
Communications Coordinator

404-527-7394 (x114)