Pediatrician Dr. Alejandro Clavier working to fight obesity in youths

October 10, 2013 (CHICAGO)

Now the medical director at Esperanza Health Centers, he says "hope" is in great supply.

Dr. Alejandro Clavier emigrated from Venezuela to Chicago to study and to work. But after succeeding at both at UIC, something was still missing.

"I was happy at the university, but even though I was working in the community rotation, I wasn't part of the community," he said.

Dr. Clavier joined Esperanza Health Centers as medical director five years ago. He oversees two locations in Little Village and a new school-based clinic in Marquette Park. The pediatrician says working in the neighborhood has given him a new perspective on community needs.

"Forty-nine percent of our patients, our children, are overweight or obese," he said. "We know about the obesity epidemic in the US, but being in the community and knowing that half our kids are overweight, that was a big. That was very important for me to know.

One way he is working to combat obesity is by hosting Girls on the Run. The clinic is the only non-school site in city. Girls on the Run is a national non-profit that teaches about nutrition and helps boost girls' self-esteem while training them for a 5K.

"It felt really good and I tried my hardest," said 10-year-old Izabel Carrizales.

"It's a good program that's not necessarily something you have to see the doctor for but they've incorporated it just for the overall well-being of the person," said Ofellia Figueroa.

The clinic also has partnered with a local school to support a community garden and encourage healthy eating. Still, Dr. Clavier says delivering that message one-on-one in the exam room is his primary goal.

"I always tell my patients if they remember me when they are adults that I always told them just drink water. Don't drink sodas and juices," he said.

The Esperanza Health Centers is a non-profit organization that treats patients regardless of their ability to pay.

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