Addressing the Obesity Epidemic in Chicago: Health Educators and the National Health Corps

The childhood obesity epidemic has long been in the news, as obesity rates continue to rapidly increase on a nationwide level. According to the non-profit organization Chicago Run, “in the state of Illinois, childhood obesity rates exceed the national average with 34.9% of children considered overweight or obese. In some under-resourced Chicago neighborhoods, these rates exceed 50%”.  Indeed, when viewing a map of childhood obesity in Chicago, it is readily apparent that medically underserved communities display higher rates of childhood obesity (please see the figure above). As a member of the National Health Corps, I serve at a school-based clinic with the Heartland Health Centers. This experience and my trainings with the National Health Corps have granted me insight into how socioeconomic inequity has acutely shaped the obesity epidemic.

Heartland Health Centers runs six school-based health centers throughout Chicago. Various National Health Corps members serve with the Heartland Health Centers, implementing methodologies that attempt to address the alarming obesity epidemic. For example, many of the members of the National Health Corps serve as Health Educators and thus provide comprehensive individualized nutrition education counseling to students. Furthermore, various members of the NHC have also promoted student organizations and, therefore, work in alliance with students to promote healthy diets. The NHC members have derived their skills and expertise in the arena of nutrition and health from various trainings sponsored by both the National Health Corps and Heartland Health Centers, such as a Cooking Matters training. These trainings and our direct experiences with patients have bolstered our ability to serve as Health Educators; such experiences will allow members of the NHC to serve on the forefront of addressing the obesity epidemic

This blog post was written by NHC Chicago 2017-18 member Alana Slavin.

Alana is a Health Educator at Heartland Health Center - Lincoln Square/Hibbard/APMA