HKHC: Milwaukee, Wisconsin


Excerpt from Lessons for Leaders:

Led by United Neighborhood Centers of Milwaukee (UNCOM), the Milwaukee Childhood Obesity Prevention Project shared resources intentionally to build capacity and momentum toward its goals. It funded 10 demonstration projects in partnering agencies and invited partners to participate in listening sessions, recognition ceremonies and community-wide physical activity events. UNCOM shared grant funding with the Next Door Foundation and Neu-Life Community Development to support youth-centered capacity building and healthy eating initiatives.

For more information, read the full story.

July 2014

Milwaukee has a long tradition of neighborhood-based youth and family centers derived from the settlement house movement of the 19th century, which sought to alleviate conditions in poor urban areas. These eight centers offer services to all who reside in the City of Milwaukee. In 1995, the centers joined under the umbrella of “United Neighborhood Centers of Milwaukee” (UNCOM) to share best practices, leverage resources and empower residents to work together to create solutions for challenges facing the city. In 2009, with 37 percent of Milwaukee school children obese or overweight, UNCOM and its eight community centers took the lead for a new initiative to combat childhood obesity and applied for a Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities (HKHC) grant.

UNCOM’s collective view that healthy eating and active living are key determinants of self-sufficiency positioned them well to create a new partnership: the Milwaukee Childhood Obesity Prevention Project (MCOPP). MCOPP is an inclusive coalition with the goal of reducing childhood obesity in Milwaukee through environmental and policy changes that promote healthy eating and active living. The MCOPP partnership includes key stakeholders and thought leaders within UNCOM and its eight member agencies – the Medical College of Wisconsin, Marquette University, Playworks Milwaukee, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and Zilber Neighborhood Initiatives, among others.

MCOPP’s integrated and collaborative network of change strategized around three distinct but connected influences in children’s lives: youth and family-serving agencies, schools and neighborhoods. By focusing on “circles of influence” radiating from each of the UNCOM neighborhood centers, which serve as the heart of the initiative, they could impact more than 60,000 people served annually by the UNCOM centers, most of whom are low-income African Americans and Hispanic families living in areas of Milwaukee with little access to healthy food and opportunities for active living.

The partnership developed goals that targeted the internal management structure of the UNCOM centers as well as the surrounding communities. Goals included developing community-wide change strategies for healthy eating and active living, creating a land use policy to promote existing healthy assets and create visibility and advocacy opportunities to address challenges, developing a healthy food policy to increase nutritious offerings in snack and drink machines at the centers, establishing an active living policy for standard physical activity for children and increased activity by UNCOM staff, and creating curriculum and professional development opportunities for staff to build UNCOM’s capacity. “This project has the potential to reach some of the most at-risk children in the city,” said HKHC Project Director David Nelson. “We’re trying to change attitudes around physical activity and food. This is a serious matter.”

The UNCOM Board of Directors voted to approve the active living and healthy eating policy recommendations developed by MCOPP across their four strategy areas:

Ten demonstration projects were funded through subcontracts made with partners to drive policy and environmental change and education related to healthy eating and active living based on the expressed interest of the partner.

For more information, view a short film about their work.