The speakers included local and national leaders on these issues on the fields of education and health, such as Dr. Gail Christopher, Vice President of Program Strategy at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation; Dr. Charles Basch, Richard March Hoe Professor of Health Education at Columbia University Teachers College; Terry Mazany, Interim CEO of Chicago Public Schools (CPS); Dr. Bechara Choucair, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health; and Mirtha Beadle, Deputy Director at the Office of Minority Health, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.
Topics of obesity, asthma, teen pregnancy, racism and the lack of physical activity and breakfast dominated most of the dialogue. But the role of partnerships, enforcing what works and not putting unnecessary burdens on schools was also discussed. Mazany, CPS interim CEO, issued a call for public and charter schools to work together for the benefit of students.
While speakers acknowledged the role schools have played in providing meals for children, and being a one-stop resource for all kind of social services; there were questions about the role schools have played in meeting needs that may be better served by a government agency attacking the root of the problem.
OMH Preconception Peer Educators (PPEs) working in Chicago this week split their time between surveying high schools students about their cafeteria choices and helping parents beautify the playground at Inter-American Magnet School, to emphasize the importance of fitness and physical activity.
And although the possibility of rain delayed the full painting of two foursquare outlines and three hopscotch games on the blacktop, PPEs helped school parents outline blacktop games, plant flowers and played with school children after organizing playground equipment.
A self-described "concerned parent" Nancy Zwick expressed her appreciation for the helping hands and why parents were working with the school to regain the 10 minutes cut from recess last year.
"Recess has fallen by the wayside in terms of seeing [its] value," Zwick said. "It's been seen as an extra, but it's really not. We have recess... but we want a good recess where kids are encouraged to move and play."
Meanwhile, the OMH hosted the inaugural meeting of the advisory committee for its new Action Learning Collaborative, with the long term goal of improving schools’ food offerings and school environments for all children, and in particular for minority and underserved populations. Members of the Action Learning Collaborative toured the Academy for Global Citizenship and Namaste School to see their health-promoting initiatives first-hand. This afternoon, our friends at Chicago Run are hosting after-school running activities at several schools across the city.
Highlights of the day:
- PPEs survey high school students about their current meal options.
- PPEs help beautify school playground and prepare school playground equipment.
- Documentary Crisis in the Crib is screened at UIC, followed by a Q&A session with spokesperson Tonya Lewis Lee.
- Members of the Action Learning Collaborative meet to lay the foundation for future work through partnerships.