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Building a Healthier Chicago!

Posted March 5th, 2012

ACSM has been proud to work with Assistant Surgeon General Dr. James M. Galloway in the early years of the ACSM American Fitness Index. Dr. Galloway spoke about the importance of the AFI data report to the Building a Healthier Chicago! initiative upon the launch of the AFI program in 2008.

Building a Healthier Chicago! is a collaborative endeavor between the American Medical Association, the Chicago Department of Public Health, and the Office of the Regional Health Administrator of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Region V.

The goal of the campaign is to improve the health of Chicago’s residents and employees through the integration of existing and new public health, medicine and community health activities.

The campaign involves several programs including:

  • F.I.T. City: A restaurant initiative to develop and promote F.I.T. (Fresh, Innovative, and Tasty) menu options through partnerships with restaurants, chefs, culinary schools, health advocates, and community groups.
  • Focus Community: Specific program to help the Austin community, located on Chicago’s west side, gain access to healthy foods. Austin is the most densely populated community within Chicago, but has no chain supermarket thus residents have limited access to healthy foods. Parts of Austin have even been designated as “food deserts.”
  • Building a Healthier Chicago’s Agribusiness: A project aimed to set up markets in food deserts to give residents access to affordable fruits and vegetables. The program worked with the DePaul University Graduate School of Business to create a simple market concept- sell food for a dollar each – two apples for a dollar, four potatoes for a dollar, etc.
  • “Federal Employees: Active and Healthy…Working Well”: A worksite wellness program for federal employees aimed to improve the culture of the city’s federal workplaces to encourage employee wellness through healthy eating, and various physical activities.

Chicago ranked 28th in the most recent ACSM American Fitness Index™ (AFI) data report, which evaluates the 50 most populous city areas and identifies the healthiest and fittest places in the United States. The metro area earned a score of 48.9 (out of 100 possible points) in 2011.

The metro area ranked 34th on personal health indicators related to health behaviors, chronic health problems and health care, and 21st on community/environmental indicators related to the built environment, recreational facilities, park-related expenditures, physical education requirements and primary health care providers.

Pertinent to Building a Healthier Chicago, only 22.5% of the population reports eating 5+ servings of fruits/vegetables a day. However, the area has an above average number of farmers’ markets (17.7/1,000,000).

Building a Healthier Chicago! operates under the Social Ecological Model, which acknowledges how environmental factors impact the decisions people make. This model combines these multiple perspectives and promotes a healthy environment/lifestyle suited for the social space in which people live, eat, work and play.

For more information, please visit:

Building a Healthier Chicago

Let’s Move! Celebrates Two Year Anniversary

Posted February 27th, 2012

Let’s Move! – a national campaign to fight childhood obesity – celebrated its second anniversary this month. The campaign launched in February of 2010 with the goal to reduce the childhood obesity rate to just five percent by 2030.

The initial concern lies with estimates suggesting 17 percent of American teens and children are overweight and obese – triple the rate of a generation ago, according to the CDC.

Led by U.S. first lady Michelle Obama, Let’s Move! aggressively rolled out several programs, with many recommendations still underway, to address the ongoing, national obesity crisis faced by many of the cities highlighted in the ACSM American Fitness Index™ (AFI) data report. The average obesity rate among the metro areas included in the report is 25.9 percent (with a range from 18.1 percent to 34.3 percent).

“The physical and emotional health of an entire generation and the economic health and security of our nation is at stake,” said Mrs. Obama at the Let’s Move! launch.Times have changed and thus, so have our youths’ lifestyles. Natural progression in transportation, increased snacking, education/extracurricular budget cuts, exploding portion sizes, and

entertainment media all play a role in the shocking reality of youth obesity.

However, recent reports show the campaign is gaining traction as obesity rates have flattened among youth, and many students and parents are more aware of recommended dietary and fitness guidelines.

The campaign involves several initiatives to educate America’s youth and their parents on healthy lifestyle choices. Some of these initiatives include:

  • MyPlate: The most recent “upgrade” to the food pyramid which places emphasis on portion size by providing a visual reminder for preparing and eating meals.
  • Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act: Law signed by President Obama holding schools to a higher and healthier standard for school lunches.
  • The Partnership for a Healthier America: Partnership to aid in encouraging, tracking and communicating commitments to healthier lifestyles with a variety of companion organizations.

It’s also important to note, as much of the data in the AFI report confirms, there is often a direct correlation between obesity and many other diseases including diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and asthma. Many of the campaign’s suggested lifestyle recommendations will play a hand in addressing these issues and many more.

This comprehensive initiative requires the attention and dedication of many parties including parents, elected government officials, schools, health care professionals, faith-based and community-based o

rganizations, and more.

For more information on the campaign, visit Let’s Move!

Oklahoma City’s Wellness Now Initiative

Posted February 16th, 2012

From time to time, we like to highlight community initiatives and programs that are making a difference. Wellness Now is a community-led initiative in Oklahoma City, Okla., aimed at addressing the city’s health problems. Oklahoma City ranked 50th in the most recent ACSM American Fitness Index™ (AFI) data report, which evaluates the 50 most populous city areas and identifies the healthiest and fittest places in the United States. The metro area earned a score of 24.6 (out of 100 possible points) in 2011.

Oklahoma City struggles with a wide variety of health problems including obesity and tobacco use, both of which are contributors to heart disease, diabetes and other chronic illnesses. The study reports 28.6% of the city’s population being obese and 22.8% currently smoking. As a result, the city ranks 50th in personal health indicators with a score of 15.6.

Wellness Now, started in April of 2010, is a collaboration between nearly 100 community partners including schools, health care professionals, elected officials from all levels of government, faith-based and community-based organizations, and private sector companies all dedicated to making necessary changes in order to create a healthy community. In addition to the program’s partners, Wellness Now relies heavily on people in the neighborhoods to participate in surveys and community forums.

The program is chaired by Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett and County Commission Chairman Ray Vaughn, and addresses the following public health priority areas:

  • Obesity
  • Mental Health
  • School Health
  • Senior Health
  • Tobacco Use Prevention
  • Obstacles to Health
  • Maternal & Child Health
  • Chronic Disease

For example, the program aims to increase access to and consumption of healthy, safe and affordable food, encourage physical activity, and promote local ordinances requiring 100% smoke-free workplaces. For more examples on specific actions for each of the above mentioned public health priority areas, check out

For more information on Wellness Now, visit or