Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan continues commitment of reducing childhood obesity by awarding grants to 24 elementary schools across the state

More than 24,000 Michigan kids impacted by Building Healthy Communities program since 2009

September 13, 2011

DETROIT — Michigan has found itself on a less than desirable list: among the 30 states nationwide with a 30 percent or higher rate of obese children, ages 10-17. As part of its nonprofit mission to create a healthier Michigan, Blue Cross Blue Shield is kicking off its third annual healthy living program to ensure students learn the benefits of healthy lifestyle habits, extending their education beyond the traditional reading, writing and arithmetic. Twenty-four elementary schools and five community partners throughout Michigan are receiving grants, ranging from $20,000 to $50,000 per school, to implement programs intended to increase physical activity and improve nutrition for students.

“We are focusing on the future of Michigan,” said Diane Valade, director of Social Mission for Blue Cross. “Our goal is to help elementary school students understand the value of choosing a healthy lifestyle and help them adopt healthy practices that will continue into their adult lives.”

Obesity is the second leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Michigan’s annual obesity expenditures total nearly $3 billion, with 70 percent of medical expenses directly related to this epidemic. According to the American Heart Association, childhood obesity is now the number one health concern among parents in the United States, topping drug abuse and smoking. U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona characterized this generation as “ the first generation that will be less healthy and have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.” Educating and encouraging young people to adopt healthy lifestyle habits will positively affect health care costs in the long run.

The grants are part of the Blues’ Building Healthy Communities: Engaging Elementary Schools and their Community Partners program, a unique and unprecedented platform designed to make Michigan a healthier state. Since 2004, Blue Cross has awarded nearly $4.3 million in Building Healthy Communities and related grant funding, impacting more than 24,000 elementary students.

Building Healthy Communities grant recipients are required to have:

  • An assessment tool to measure the overall health of the school environment
  • Physical activity and nutrition education, using specific programs
  • A walking club for students and faculty
  • A celebratory 5K run or walk event

These healthy elements contribute to the overall sustainability of the program after the funding cycle ends. For instance, many former grantee schools maintained their walking programs and 5K events, even after the designated funding year. Other schools implemented changes in their school lunch menu and continue educating children and families on healthy eating and nutrition.
The grants are part of the Blues’ mission to promote healthier lifestyles, prevent childhood obesity, reduce associated health risks, improve the health status and ultimately reduce the cost of health care. Obese children are more vulnerable to diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. View the Building Healthy Communities: School Media Toolkit for additional details about the Building Healthy Communities program.

The following 24 schools received funding for the 2011-12 school year:

Southeast Michigan region schools and their respective community partners:

  • Jackson County: Concord Elementary School in Concord and Concord Village 
  • Macomb County: Mount Clemens Montessori Academy in Mount Clemens
  • Macomb County: Mount Clemens Seminole Academy in Mount Clemens
  • Oakland County: Houghton Elementary School in White Lake and Charter Township of Waterford
  • Shiawassee County: Byron Elementary School in Byron
  • Shiawassee County: Perry East Elementary School in Perry
  • St. Clair County: Woodrow Wilson Elementary School and Port Huron Housing Commission
  • Wayne County: Charles H. Wright Academy of Arts and Science in Detroit
  • Wayne County: Fordline Elementary School in Southgate
  • Wayne County: Maybury Elementary School in Detroit
    Wayne County: Neinas Elementary School in Detroit

Southwest region partners:

  • Berrien County: Fair Plain West Elementary School in Benton Harbor and First Chance, Inc.
  • Barry County: Delton Kellogg Elementary School in Delton
  • Muskegon County: Campbell Elementary School in Muskegon
  • Van Buren County: Lawton Elementary School in Lawton 

Saginaw, Flint and Lansing region partners:

  • Osceola County: G.T. Norman Elementary School in Reed City and Spectrum Health Reed City Hospital
  • Saginaw County: Big Rock Elementary School in Chesaning 

Northern and Upper Peninsula partners are:

  • Iron County: Stambaugh Elementary School in Iron River
  • Mason County: Mason County Center Upper in Scottville
  • Mason County: Scottville Elementary School in Scottville
  • Menominee County: Carney-Nadeau Elementary School in Carney
  • Ontonagon County: Ontonagon Elementary School in Ontonagon
  • Otsego County: South Maple Elementary School in Gaylord
  • Otsego County: North Ohio Elementary School in Gaylord

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit organization, provides and administers health benefits to nearly 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

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