Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan encourages state's youth to join in Walk to School Day

Walking is part of broader program by Blues and schools to promote healthy habits and reduce childhood obesity

October 6, 2009

DETROIT - Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is encouraging schools across the state to step up the fight against childhood obesity by participating in International Walk to School Day (iWalk) on Oct. 7.

"The International Walk to School Day fits right in with broader efforts underway to help schools reduce the risk and prevalence of childhood obesity," said Lynda Rossi, BCBSM vice president of social mission and public affairs. "Reaching kids at an early age is essential because they develop habits that will last into adulthood. Healthy eating and physical activity, which can be as simple as walking to school, are important life skills that help children grow and prevent health problems, such as hypertension and diabetes, later in life."

The company recently awarded Building Healthy Communities grants to 17 Michigan schools and their community partners as part of its mission-focused effort to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity by increasing physical activity and improving nutrition. Many of the schools that received these grants will be kicking off their 2009-10 initiatives with iWalk.

In addition, the Blues also provide funding to the Governor's Council on Physical Fitness, Health and Sports and the Michigan Fitness Foundation for Safe Routes to Schools grants. These grants help schools develop and maintain safe routes to schools, encouraging walking and biking to and from school. Thirty Michigan schools received grants this year and several are participating in the iWalk event.

In Michigan, 12 percent of middle school children and 15 percent of high school students are considered obese.

"I believe kids who exercise and eat well have a better chance of reaching their full learning potential," said Stephanie Rockette, principal of Seely McCord Elementary School in Benton Harbor. "They pay closer attention in class and perform higher academically and socially. At Seely McCord, we are using a comprehensive approach to teach our students about healthy lifestyles choices, partnering with our food service team, parents, agencies, and the community to improve their physical activity and nutrition. Our Blue Cross funding helps build a healthier school community and we are very excited to kick off the school year with this walking event."

Participating Blues-funded Building Healthy Communities schools include: Fred D. Leonhard Elementary in Southfield; Franklin Elementary in Cadillac; King Academy of Extended Learning and Technology in Mt. Clemens; Seely McCord Elementary in Benton Harbor; Blair Elementary in Traverse City; University Preparatory Academy — Mark Murray Campus in Detroit, and Hunt Elementary in Jackson. Many of the schools are hosting walks with parents, teachers and city officials. Some plan on gathering for a healthy breakfast after the walk, or a school-wide assembly.

An estimated 6,200 schools in the United States participated in International Walk to School day in 2008, which is sponsored by a far ranging group of safety, government and nonprofit organizations.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan supports community efforts that improve lives and promote healthy lifestyles. It invests in local communities by supporting organizations that share its commitment to Michigan. Its charitable contributions support programs that address health issues, especially among youth and seniors.

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's Healthy Blue Living; Flexible Blue plans compatible with health savings accounts; Medicare Advantage; Part D Prescription Drug plans, and MyBlueproducts 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 bcbsm.com.

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