Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and MSU College of Human Medicine launch $1 million "FIT" childhood obesity prevention program to help reverse unhealthy trend among our youth

With obesity estimated to cost the nation $147 billion, a collaborative health initiative with Grand Rapids Public Schools and area groups aims to change behavior and positively impact children's health

This is a joint news release from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

August 5, 2009

GRAND RAPIDS - Officials from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Michigan State University College of Human Medicine and Grand Rapids Public Schools today announced a $1 million health initiative called "FIT" that focuses on reducing childhood obesity. Four schools and surrounding neighborhoods in Grand Rapids have been selected as the focus for FIT and officials believe these program components could serve as a guide for programs in other Michigan communities.

The health and economic consequences of obesity are alarming. Over the last twenty years the number of overweight children has doubled, and a recent study released by RTI International says the annual medical expenditures attributable to obesity cost the nation approximately $147 billion. Obesity from an early age increases risks for heart disease, hypertension, chronic disease and some forms of cancer.

FIT is using a multi-faceted approach to reducing and preventing obesity, focusing on increased physical activity and improved nutrition, and collaboration with the schools' staff, families and community organizations to establish a social "culture" that embraces lifestyles that help sustain healthy weight and wellness.

The key objectives for FIT are to:

  • increase access to safe and affordable physical activities
  • improve the affordability and availability of nutritious food
  • increase knowledge, attitudes and behaviors associated with healthy living

The project attempts to affect change in the schools and in the surrounding neighborhood. By working within the school and its larger community, the project may more effectively improve healthy living and create more sustainable attitudinal and behavioral change.

Beginning this fall, FIT will involve elementary schools Buchanan, Cesar E. Chavez, Campus and Dickinson in Grand Rapids. "A student's physical health and well being plays an important role in their ability to learn and succeed academically. We believe that in order to keep children in school, reduce absences, and increase student achievement, our schools must work in partnership with like-minded public and private partners to address the "X" factors and remove any barriers that may inhibit student success. This project has tremendous short-term and long-term benefits for children, their families, and the entire community," said Dr. Bernard Taylor, Jr., Superintendent of Grand Rapids Schools.

Local organizations already invested in the issue of child health will work with the project, including the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids, Grand Valley State University Johnson Center Community Research Institute, Kent County MSU Extension Office, Kent County Coordinated School Health Program, Kent County Essential Needs Task Force Food Committee, Grand Rapids African American Health Institute, Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Department, Spectrum Health Healthier Communities, Helen DeVos Children's Hospital, Lighthouse Communities, and the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce.

"Successful behavior change needs multiple levels of influence on individual behavior," said Jeff Connolly, BCBSM vice president and president of western operations. "Although there is no clear-cut solution to solving the obesity epidemic, a sustainable and comprehensive population-based approach for intervention may help address the root causes and curb the increasing trend of childhood obesity. The Blues are committed to improving the health of Michigan families, especially children. We are pleased to support MSU and commend the collective efforts of all our partners in this effort."

"Childhood obesity is a growing public health problem," said Marsha D. Rappley, MD, dean, MSU College of Human Medicine. "We know that children who are obese have an increased likelihood of being obese adults, and obesity has been shown to increase the risk of several serious diseases. This pilot program addresses this issue on several levels."

FIT is funded through a grant to Michigan State University College of Human Medicine from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. The College of Human Medicine will collaborate with several departments within MSU to implement the program, including Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Department of Kinesiology, Department of Pediatrics and Human Development and the Department of Advertising, Public Relations and Retailing.

About Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit organization, provides and administers health benefits to 4.7 million members residing in Michigan in addition to members of Michigan-headquartered groups who reside outside the state. The company offers a broad variety of plans including: Traditional Blue Cross Blue Shield; Blue Preferred®, Community Blue℠ and Healthy Blue Incentives℠ PPOs; Blue Care Network HMO; BCN Healthy Blue Living℠; Flexible Blue℠ plans compatible with health savings accounts; Medicare Advantage; Part D Prescription Drug plans, and MyBlue℠ products in the under-age-65 individual market. BCBSM also offers dental, vision and hearing plans. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network are nonprofit corporations and independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. For more company information, visit

About Michigan State Unversity College of Human Medicine

Founded in 1964, Michigan State University College of Human Medicine was established in response to Michigan's need for primary care physicians. It was among the first community-based medical schools, with a curriculum that emphasized a patient-centered philosophy. As a community-based medical school, the College of Human Medicine provides students with comprehensive training in clinical settings that most closely parallel the environment in which many physicians practice.

During the third- and fourth-year of the program, students complete a series of required and elective clerkships at one of MSU's seven community-based program sites located in Flint, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Saginaw, Traverse City and the Upper Peninsula.

About Grand Rapids Public Schools

Grand Rapids Public Schools is the third largest school district in the state and the second largest employer in the City of Grand Rapids serving nearly 20,000 students, representing 70 different countries, with more than 4,000 dedicated employees. GRPS offers the largest selection of school choices in all of West Michigan — each equipped with the tools, technology, and highly qualified teachers and support staff to meet the needs of every child. In November 2008, the Detroit News editorial board called GRPS a "model" urban school district due to the "persistent, disciplined, strategic work" aimed at school improvements.

Over the last three years, GRPS has seen a 65% increase in the number of schools earning a "B" grade or better on the Michigan Education Yes report and a 25% increase in the number of schools meeting federal Adequate Yearly Progress standards.

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