African-American church challenge helps members get fit, Body and Soul

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan partners with American Cancer Society to improve health status and encourage healthy lifestyle habits

September 30, 2009

FLINT - Churches in the Greater Flint African-American communities are launching a challenge today with each other to help their congregations adopt healthier lifestyles through the American Cancer Society's Body and Soul program.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is partnering with the society to assist the churches with faith-based health awareness, education and literacy initiatives. The program is geared toward preventing illness, reducing health care costs, decreasing health care disparities and changing behaviors in the African-American community.

BCBSM's involvement in the challenge supports the company's mission to create a healthier Michigan. "This initiative demonstrates our commitment to addressing health disparities by building strategic partnerships within the minority community," said Shelley DuFort, BCBSM's senior community liaison. "We find it more effective to work with organizations that are already deeply involved in the community and recognized as leaders and decision-makers. This helps us in our efforts to improve the health status of Michigan residents in communities throughout the state."

Ten churches in Flint have enrolled in the challenge, which will run from Sept. 28 to Nov. 7. Health appraisals will be used to measure improvements in the health of their members over the course of the program, including changes in blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, knowledge and behavior.

Participating churches also commit to coordinating physical activity and nutrition activities for their congregation, promoting various health screenings to their church members and sending volunteers for training to expand their health ministry capabilities so each church can assist in enrolling uninsured people in various health insurance programs.

For the walking component of the challenge, BCBSM is sharing the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association's popular WalkingWorks® program to help churches track the physical activity of their congregations. Each participating church will form five-person walking teams, with each team logging its mileage and competing against each other.

The top team in each church will receive a prize of $250 to be divided among team participants. The top performing church will receive a prize of $1,000 to be used for programming and material needs for their health ministry efforts. The results of the challenge will be shared Nov. 7 at a celebration event, which will be emceed by Blues Health and Wellness Advocate, Jodi Davis. Davis is the author of a blog on BCBSM's Web site. Jodi lost 162 pounds in 16 months by walking and improving her diet, which she has kept off for seven years.

The Blues' involvement with the Body and Soul program is just one example of a broader effort to help Michigan residents, particularly children, sustain a healthy weight and embrace wellness. Following are two other examples:

  • In April, BCBSM provided grant funding to the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine to develop a $1 million health initiative called "FIT." Four schools in Grand Rapids and surrounding neighborhoods were selected as the focus for FIT, which is aimed at reducing childhood obesity.
  • BCBSM is also partnering with the Wellness Council of the encourage residents in all counties in the Upper Peninsula to engage in an incentive-based fitness challenge during the winter months. The eight-week challenge will run from Jan. 3, 2010, through Feb. 27.

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. 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

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