HKHC: Kane County, Illinois


Excerpt from Lessons for Leaders:

Kane County branded its integrated suite of health-oriented, long-range plans as “Quality of Kane” and used terms such as “promise,” “prosperity,” “quality of life” and “for everyone.” It successfully promoted Illinois’ Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program redemption at new farmers’ markets and a farmland protection ordinance for rural economic development opportunities. A flexible frame helped the Kane County Fit for Kids initiative thrive even through the loss of its initial leadership and a significant post-election change in the county board.

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November 2013

Forty miles west of Chicago lies Kane County, home to more than 500,000 people. Most of them live in cities strung along the Fox River, which two decades of rapid growth has turned into a dense urban corridor. The population boom was driven by young families expanding out from Chicago, including many first-generation immigrants. Between 1990 and 2007, the county’s Latino population more than tripled, and today, Latinos comprise 28 percent of Kane’s population. Over 30 percent of residents over age 5, live in a home where a language other than English is spoken. Together, the cities of Aurora and Elgin along with three smaller mid-county municipalities that are collectively called the Tri-Cities account for more than 95 percent of its Latino and African-American residents.

County leaders have recognized the myriad growing pains that accompanied this expansion and are taking steps to make Kane safe, healthy and livable for current and future residents. In particular, the health department has worked with a wide variety of local partners to reverse childhood obesity and reduce chronic disease, especially among the most at-risk children in the community. Making Kane County Fit for Kids (FFK), the county’s Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities project, developed a Fit Kids 2020 blueprint to guide future healthy eating- and active living-related efforts as well as supportive structures for funding and implementation.

“Where we live has such a powerful influence on our health,” said Project Director Michael Isaacson. “We’re working together to ensure that our investments in transportation, agriculture, economic development and education here in Kane all have a positive impact on the health of our community.”

Key accomplishments include:

“The Fit For Kids process has dramatically increased the scope and scale of collaboration across the county on issues affecting children’s health,” according to Project Coordinator Jane Maxwell. “These collaborations have brought new resources to the work and an expanded understanding of how it improves quality of life for all the residents of our county.”