University of Chicago Medicine, White Sox Team Up to Target Childhood Obesity

Comer Children's Hospital, White Sox Team Up to Target Childhood Obesity

January 25, 2013

The University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital and the Chicago White Sox have joined forces to combat childhood obesity through a partnership aimed at educating youth and families on ways to be active and make healthy eating choices.

Through a sponsorship of the team's new "Family Sundays" along with the White Sox Kids Club, Comer Children's Hospital will be able to reach more consumers in a very public way to teach families how to make healthy lifestyle choices using its repertoire of research-based programs.

The kickoff of the new partnership was held today at Woodlawn Community School on Chicago's South Side, with Sox catcher Tyler Flowers, director of conditioning Allen Thomas and team mascot Southpaw. More than 100 schoolchildren were in attendance. Many participated in the exercises that were led by Flowers, Thomas and Southpaw.

"We are honored to stand alongside the University of Chicago Medicine in its mission to help kids across Chicagoland," said Brooks Boyer, White Sox senior vice president of sales and marketing. "I cannot imagine a more perfect fit as a partner with the White Sox. Together, we hope to make a lasting, positive impact in our community."

Obesity has emerged as the No. 1 health problem facing children in the United States, according to a report from the National Institutes of Health, and data confirm the condition's prevalence in Chicago outweighs the national average. Among Chicago schoolchildren, approximately 20 percent of 8- to10-year-olds and 30 percent of 11- to 13-year-olds are overweight or obese. While Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Department of Public Health have made some recent strides toward reversing the startling trend, experts agree the need for creative measures to reach kids and families remains.

For the University of Chicago Medicine, the new partnership is the latest initiative aimed at addressing the obesity epidemic in its neighboring South Side communities and creating models for successful programs nationwide. With insight from parents and community groups, Deborah Burnet, MD, professor of medicine and pediatrics and section chief of general internal medicine, has developed a formula with promise: locally focused programs tailored for differences in culture and family circumstances.

"This partnership is a unique opportunity to extend our efforts to encourage healthier behaviors with an approach sure to appeal to kids and their families," Burnet said. "We know athletes often have the power to reach children in a way parents and teachers may not, so we were excited to learn about the White Sox's commitment to promoting good nutrition and exercise among their youngest fans. Not surprisingly, our objectives in this area dovetail nicely. The White Sox Kids Club offers the ideal complement to our Power-Up program."

Power-Up is an after-school program offering weekly nutrition and physical activity sessions for children in kindergarten through the 6th grade at Woodlawn Community School. The foundation for the program, which launched in 2009, is a study led by Burnet that set out to determine whether school-based initiatives could be effective in helping to decrease obesity risks among children. The findings have been encouraging -- preliminary results found a significant drop in body mass index among overweight participants.

Locations throughout the ballpark will have "Power Up" Game Cards featuring a physical activity or educational experience for children to compete for a chance at prizes including baseball caps, wall clings, bobbleheads and more. The multiyear anti-obesity campaign also includes TV and radio advertising, PSAs and game-day signage.

Family Sundays, announced by the White Sox in November 2012, is an effort to make the ballpark experience more affordable for families. The promotion will cover all 13 Sunday home games in 2013 and feature specially priced seats and new lower-priced parking. It also will feature special autograph sessions with current and former White Sox players, as well as White Sox broadcasters, and the opportunity to run the bases after games (weather permitting). Tickets for all Sunday home games are now available on

Through the White Sox Kids Club, children 13 and younger are eligible for two membership levels: the All-Star ($37), and the Slugger (free). Memberships include complimentary game tickets and kits. Members also receive information and programs encouraging young fans to stay active and eat healthy in an effort to combat childhood obesity. Memberships are available on