GRAND RAPIDS, Dec. 11, 2015 — Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan thanked Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon for joining multiple organizations collaborating in the Building Healthy Communities program today when 117 Michigan schools were awarded the program. Building Healthy Communities, originally created by Blue Cross in 2009, is an evidence-based, comprehensive, school-wide initiative that supports children’s health by providing students, teachers and administrators with tools and resources to improve student health while creating a healthier school environment. The announcement was made at an event at Ridge Park Charter Academy in Grand Rapids, a new recipient of the program.
Building Healthy Communities is an initiative supported by multiple statewide organizations, including Blue Cross, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the Michigan Department of Education, the Michigan Fitness Foundation, University of Michigan, United Dairy Industry of Michigan, Wayne State University, Michigan State University Extension, Michigan Team Nutrition and Action for Healthy Kids, working together to teach kids healthy habits, address childhood obesity and transform the school environment. The program has reached over 180,000 students in more than 390 Michigan schools.
“These schools deserve a great deal of credit for their commitment to creating a learning environment that promotes health and wellness,” said Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley. “Research shows that when students are healthy and eat nutritious meals, they are ready to learn. At the end of the day, we are helping Michigan kids be better prepared to learn and succeed in today’s economy.”
New this year is Building Healthy Communities: Step Up for School Wellness which enabled an additional 69 schools to participate, integrating the recommended process from Michigan’s new “Steps to a Healthy School” website and using five action-focused steps to direct change. Each school chose one component each from two focus areas: physical activity and physical education, and healthy eating and nutrition education.
Nick Lyon, director of the Department of Health and Human Services, said, “We are proud to partner on this innovative program to help make sure our kids are ready to learn from the opening bell, through the school day and beyond. Building Healthy Communities continues to support the administration’s commitment to promoting health and wellness among youth. By working together to improve nutrition education and physical activity in our schools, we can encourage healthy habits among youth today and into the future.”
“Building Healthy Communities was created by Blue Cross to help Michigan kids adopt healthy habits at a young age, increasing the likelihood they will carry those behaviors into adulthood and decrease their risk of developing many serious health issues in the future,” said Lynda Rossi, executive vice president, Strategy and Public Affairs for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. “It is because of the support of the administration and all the partners that this program has been so successful and continues to impact more schools and children every year.”
Ridge Park Charter Academy Principal Emory Wyckoff said, “At Ridge Park, our focus is on leading children to a lifetime of success. One of the many inputs for success includes teaching overall health and wellness. We are excited to participate in this Building Healthy Communities program that offers resources designed to do just that for our students.”
“This is the kind of innovative program that can put resources right into the classroom where they can have the greatest positive impact on our kids,” said State Superintendent Brian Whiston. “Step Up for School Wellness is the key to helping all students improve their health, and provide them with the opportunity to grow academically. We are excited we can support a program that can open the door to better wellness and academic success for so many children.”
Dr. Nate McCaughtry, director, Wayne State University Center for School Health, said, “Research is proving that Building Healthy Communities is making a long-term difference in childhood health and behavior.”
“The obesity epidemic is a public health emergency,” said Kim Eagle, M.D., director of the Frankel Cardiovascular Center at the University of Michigan Health System and professor of health management and policy at the University Of Michigan School Of Public Health. “By helping shape healthy behaviors at an early age, we are making a lifelong impact on health.”
Sharon Toth, RD, chief executive officer of United Dairy Industry of Michigan, said, “United Dairy Industry of Michigan is thrilled to be part of this statewide effort to increase access to a balanced, healthy breakfast in our schools so students can maximize their learning opportunity and experience.”
“The true power of Building Healthy Communities is that it incorporates healthy choices and healthy lifestyles in the daily routines of our youngest students,” said Michigan Fitness Foundation president and CEO J.J. Tighe. “We are excited to provide this program to schools to reinforce the importance of physical activity and nutrition. We are inspiring kids to embrace healthy habits for a lifetime."
Building Healthy Communities supports Blue Cross’s ongoing commitment to children’s health and its #MIKidsCan campaign – an initiative focused on encouraging kids to adopt healthy habits early in life that are more likely to be carried into adulthood.
For more information on Blue Cross’s ongoing efforts to help improve childhood health, visit AHealthierMichigan.org/mikidscan or follow #MIKidsCan on Twitter.
For more information on the Building Healthy Communities program, please visit bcbsm.com/buildhealth.