BCBSM Building Healthy Communities - Building Healthy Communities Reaches More Than 100,000 Michigan Students

BCBS success story photo Last fall, Gov. Rick Snyder joined Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and other partners to announce the 58 schools across Michigan that would be participating in the Building Healthy Communities program during the 2014-2015 school year. With the addition of these recipients, the program has reached more than 100,000 students in more than 275 schools since its inception in 2009.

Building Healthy Communities is a unique initiative that encourages children to adopt healthy habits through school-based programming. In order to fight obesity and improve childhood wellness, Building Healthy Communities stands on five pillars that structure the program:

1. Educate students through classroom lessons
2. Create an environment that makes the healthy choice the easy choice
3. Encourage students to practice lessons learned in the classroom
4. Provide opportunities for physical activity
5. Improve access to healthy food and beverages

Building Healthy Communities aligns with key goals of Governor Snyder's Michigan Health and Wellness 4 x 4 Plan by encouraging Michigan kids to make healthier choices by eating more nutritious foods and getting daily, physical activity.

"The State of Michigan and Department of Community Health are pleased to partner with so many communities and schools across the state to help our children make healthier choices," Snyder said during the announcement at Madison Elementary School in Madison Heights, a recipient of the program.

"We congratulate these 58 schools for securing this program. They are showing initiative and leadership in the effort to reduce childhood obesity and we applaud them."

One popular aspect of the Building Healthy Communities program: a recess cart that is wheeled out to the playground each day, loaded with jump ropes, hula-hoops and bouncy balls that encourage kids to be active during recess.

"A proud moment for us was when the principal of a participating elementary school told us, 'Recess finally looks like recess again,'" said Todd Anderson, director, Public Policy and Social Mission at Blue Cross.

"Lifelong healthy habits start at a young age," said Lynda Rossi, executive vice president, Strategy, Government and Public Affairs for Blue Cross. "A healthier Michigan is a driving mission of our company, and we are excited about the expanded opportunities that our new partnership brings in impacting positive change for students across the state."

Since 2005, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan has invested more than $6 million in childhood obesity prevention initiatives, like Building Healthy Communities, to provide school-based programs to improve the health habits of Michigan kids. The Building Healthy Communities program also supports Blue Cross' 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.

In addition to Blue Cross and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (formerly the Michigan Department of Community Health), the other partners are the Michigan Fitness Foundation, United Dairy Industry of Michigan, University of Michigan, and Wayne State University Center for School Health.

"Building Healthy Communities is the kind of partnership that can encourage children to embrace healthy habits, empower schools to take charge of their students' health and ultimately help all of us be healthier today and into the future," said MDHHS Chief Deputy Director Nick Lyon. "We are grateful for this opportunity to build upon our efforts with the Michigan Health and Wellness 4 x 4 Plan by leveraging this great partnership to join together in the fight against childhood obesity. The 58 schools that receive support are leaders in this statewide effort and we look forward to continuing our collaboration to help our youth make healthier decisions."

For more information about the Building Healthy Communities program, visit www.bcbsm.com/buildhealth. Additional information on BCBSM's #MIKidsCan initiative can be found at www.AHealthierMichigan.org/MIKidsCan.

Photo depicts Romulus Elementary School students taste testing healthy food as part of Building Healthy Communities.