Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan expands commitment to address childhood obesity through partnership with Wayne State and Michigan Fitness Foundation 

New coalition will leverage expertise of partners to positively impact kids' health

October 3, 2011

DETROIT — Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, the state’s largest nonprofit health insurer is deepening its commitment to childhood obesity prevention by expanding the Building Healthy Communities school program. A new partnership with Wayne State University's College of Education Center for School Health and the Michigan Fitness Foundation brings together organizations with proven school expertise, evidence-based resources and the commitment needed to help create a healthier Michigan.

“We are thrilled to announce our partnership with Wayne State’s Center for School Health and the Michigan Fitness Foundation. We fully believe our collective efforts will have a positive impact on children’s health,” said Diane Valade, director of Social Mission at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. “Blue Cross has a social mission to improve the health status of Michigan residents and we understand the importance and the urgency of addressing the obesity issue in this state. We look forward to building a stronger, broader coalition of organizations and supporters to address this issue in a strategic and effective way.”

Building on the current success of the BHC school-based program, the three founding partners are forming a coalition of experts and supporters to expand efforts to reduce obesity and improve the health of Michigan young people and their families.

“Wayne State is extremely excited to partner with the Blues and the Michigan Fitness Foundation to expand our decade-long commitment to improving the health of Michigan families through comprehensive school health transformations,” said Nate McCaughtry, Ph.D., Assistant Dean for the Division of Kinesiology, Health and Sport Studies and Director for the Center for School Health, Wayne State University. “The opportunity to grow and evolve an already effective program like Building Healthy Communities has the potential to address youth obesity in real and substantial ways throughout the core urban centers of Michigan.

The Blues first offered the Building Healthy Communities grant program in 2009, providing grants to schools across the state to get kids moving, eating healthier and adopting healthy lifestyles. The Blues’ Building Healthy Communities grant program operates on the premise of sustainability and creating a school culture that continues to promote healthy lifestyles long after the funding cycle is complete. A toolbox approach provides schools with resources and “tools” to continue engaging students and families in physical activity and healthy eating. Since 2009, 24,000 children in 63 elementary schools around the state have been affected by the Building Healthy Communities grants.

This new version of the Building Healthy Communities program will enhance the physical activity and nutrition education in schools, increase opportunities for students to eat healthy and be active, and provide culturally relevant and evidence-based programs. It will also help facilitate staff and youth leadership in school transformation, and provide family education and support.

“The body of evidence supporting schools as centers for health and wellness is undeniable. For instance, several studies have shown that students who are more physically fit perform better academically,” said Marilyn Lieber, President and CEO of the Michigan Fitness Foundation. “Through this partnership, the resources of three organizations committed to promoting the health of Michigan’s citizens will be focusing on the school environment, creating a healthier future for our students.”

The founding partners believe this broader effort is an important step in addressing the rising rate of childhood obesity in Michigan, and aligns with Governor Snyder’s call for collaboration in improving health and combating obesity in the state.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit organization, provides and administers health benefits to more than 4.3 million members residing in Michigan in addition to members of Michigan-headquartered groups who reside outside the state. 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

Wayne State University is a premier urban research university offering more than 400 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to nearly 32,000 students.

The Michigan Fitness Foundation is a 501(c)3 public, non-profit foundation that promotes healthy lifestyles through physical education, physical activity, nutrition education and active community programs. PE-Nut and EPEC are whole-school, standards-based curricula that are nationally recognized and considered best in the field.


Wayne State University, 248-622-8060

Michigan Fitness Foundation, 517-908-3834

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