Evanston’s McGaw YMCA teams with cancer society to target childhood obesity
Updated: April 22, 2013 10:09AM
EVANSTON — What’s a worse contributor to cancer: poor diet or tobacco?
“The American Cancer Society is very much concerned about the rising rate of childhood obesity,” said Shannon Lightner, director of cancer education for the American Cancer Society. “One third of all cancers can be connected to poor diet and a lack of physical activity. That’s the same percentage of cancers that are connected to tobacco.”
Lightner explained why a $12,200 grant assisting an Evanston McGaw YMCA childhood obesity prevention program makes sense.
“We know that it is easier to try to prevent obesity than to try to work with adults to lose weight,” said Lightner. “So that is why we are investing in programs to prevent childhood obesity.”
The American Cancer Society awarded 30 youth obesity prevention community grants to non-profit organizations across the state, including the $12,200 grant to McGaw YMCA.
“It’s a community collaborative (effort) that’s focused on policy, system and environmental change to prevent childhood obesity,” said Jonathan Webb, McGaw YMCA senior director of development, also a six-year Evanston resident.
The McGaw YMCA Coordinated Approach to Child Health program targets nearly 200 students, from 3 to 5-year-old, in a “gap” age group vulnerable to lifelong habit forming choices.
Of childhood obesity: “There has been a lot of national coverage,” said Webb. “The statistics to what we’re seeing in Cook County are similar to what we’re seeing in Evanston.”
The McGaw YMCA is one of the Pioneering Healthier Communities- Evanston collaborative members addressing childhood obesity through policy, systems and environmental change.
“We hope to impact all of Evanston when everything is said and done,” said Webb.
Promoting breast-feeding with education about physical activity and nutrition are two goals with a third mission of data collection, “so we can track our progress,” said Webb.
“The funding we got (from the grant) is directly tied to our physical activity goal.”
A tool kit assists the pilot program in five classrooms and at three sites – McGaw YMCA Children’s Center, Family Focus, Childcare Network of Evanston.
The tool kit contains fun items appealing to preschool-aged children (such as hula-hoops).
For one hour, perpetual motion is encouraged. There’s no waiting on the sidelines for one’s turn. Movement is desired during 100 percent of class time.
“Our goal is for physical activity and nutrition to pilot a curriculum that we can recommend to the greater community,” said Webb.
Studies show that 50 percent of overweight children and 70 percent of overweight adolescents will be overweight as adults.
lllinois ranks 10th highest in the United States for children aged 10 to 17 who are overweight and obese.
The American Cancer Society provided more than $360,000 in anti-obesity community grants to 30 Illinois organizations (including McGaw YMCA).
Amy Jo Steinbruecker, American Cancer Society (Illinois Division) manager of public relations, says monies for these grants are grass roots sourced.
“Relay for Life (exercise motivation fundraisers), those monies are going for prevention,” said Steinbruecker. “People of the Evanston area walking for Relay for Life are paying for these prevention programs.”
Nearly 100 Relay for Life events in Chicagoland benefit the non-profit society.
“They (Relay for Life participants) can actually see their dollars at work,” said Steinbruecker.
Training for the grant-funded initiative took place Feb. 13 at McGaw YMCA. The pilot program will be monitored from March to June.
Visit cancer.org and www.mcgawymca.org/