West Cook YMCA

Pioneering Healthier Communities

In 2008, the YMCA of the USA received funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to launch Pioneering Healthier Communities (PHC). PHC is a community based policy change initiative designed to operate at state and local levels in six states and thirty-two communities over five years. The aim of this collaboration is to address the childhood obesity epidemic through policy and systems changes that will affect communities, states, and the nation as a whole. 

In 2010, the West Cook YMCA applied for the funding and was selected to facilitate the collaboration of community leaders to fight childhood obesity head on. The initiative in Oak Park is Wild about Wellness, and this PHC Core Team collaboration is made of eighteen community leaders from healthcare, social service, educational, government, and business sectors from Oak Park. (See the list below) The group performed a Community Healthy Living Index Assessment (CHLI) in Oak Park schools, afterschool programs, community neighborhoods and businesses. The CHLI assessment formed the foundation for the community action plans and six major objectives for the PHC Core Team to tackle.


• Availability of fresh fruit and vegetables and less processed food for preschool through school aged children.

• Number of community activities that promote healthy eating

• Capacity of families to provide healthy food to children

• Number of youth walking and biking to school

• Number of after-school programs that align with new Physical Ed. Standards

• Number of families forgoing car usage for trips within one mile of home.

Addressing childhood obesity requires action by not only children and families, but also every sector of the community. Places where children live, learn, and play influence the food they eat and the amount of exercise they receive. Promoting policies, environments, and systems that promote healthy eating and an active lifestyle will have major impacts on children’s physical and mental health.

The PHC Core Team is continuing to seek out policy, system, and environmental changes related to a more active lifestyle and healthier eating. The passing of new PE standards by the State of Illinois, bike safety programs in School District 97 (Oak Park), work on educating families about healthy snacking, and discussion with the Village of Oak Park about promoting walking and biking over driving are all projects that the Core team worked on in the past year. These accomplishments are only the first steps to reversing the effects of childhood obesity in our community.

Click here for the PHC snacking pamphlet.

Click here for the PHC healthy eating pamphlet.



The Children’s Clinic

West Cook YMCA 

Park District of Oak Park

Oak Park Township

Dominican University

West Suburban Medical Center

Seven Generations Ahead

Rush Oak Park Hospital

OPRF District 200 High School

OPRF Community Foundation

Collaboration for Early Childhood Care & Education

CHLI Consultant

Youth Delegate Parent (District 97 Wellness Council)

Youth Delegate

Village of Oak Park

Village of Oak Park Health Department

OPRF School District 97

Good Heart Work Smart Foundation

Public Communications, Inc.

The West Cook Y continues to review its own policies to ensure we are doing all we can to reduce the incidence of childhood obesity. We are striving to work in other areas of chronic disease prevention as well as in collaboration with other Core Team institutions.

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