Unprecedented Building Healthy Communities partnership aims to boost healthy lifestyles in Michigan students

July 12, 2013

LANSING, Mich. — Today, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Michigan Fitness Foundation, United Dairy Industry of Michigan, University of Michigan and Wayne State University announced an unprecedented partnership to promote healthy lifestyles to schoolchildren and encourage healthy behaviors from an early age. The expanded Building Healthy Communities partnership joins together five organizations that have a long history of childhood obesity prevention programs, with components ranging from healthy eating and physical activity, to creating a healthy supportive school environment.

The Building Healthy Communities program was previously a partnership between Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, the Center for School Health at Wayne State University and the Michigan Fitness Foundation which focused on elementary schools. The newly expanded collaboration will now include the University of Michigan, incorporating its Project Healthy Schools program with a focus on middle schools, and the United Dairy Industry of Michigan, which will provide an expansion to the elementary schools element of the program to include breakfast in the classroom and its Fuel Up to Play 60 student leadership program.

"The scope of this partnership is the first of its kind in Michigan designed specifically to help students in elementary and middle schools learn healthy behaviors and practice those lessons in an environment that makes the healthy choice the easy choice," said Shannon Carney Oleksyk, a registered dietitian and healthy living advisor for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s Social Mission. "Evidence shows that when children are healthier, they are more likely to succeed in the classroom and beyond. By encouraging kids to make healthy choices at a young age, the Building Healthy Communities program is laying the foundation for a healthier, stronger Michigan future."

"The University of Michigan is excited to work with so many partners across the state to create healthy school environments," said Dr. Kim Eagle, A. Walter Hewlett professor of Internal Medicine, and director, Sam and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center, University of Michigan Health System. "The long-term benefits of this program cannot be understated in terms of its potential to improve the overall health of our citizens today and into the future, reduce health care costs that will benefit all of us, and help generations of Michiganders live healthier, more successful lives."

"The ability to reach students across Michigan is a major step in our common effort to bring healthy food, healthy choices and healthy lifestyles into our classrooms," said Sharon Toth, CEO of the United Dairy Industry of Michigan. "Michigan’s dairy farmers and producers have deep roots in their local communities and are proud to support a program that can directly help our neighbors and the families we serve. Through healthy breakfasts, nutrition education, physical activity and physical education, we can truly build a stronger, healthier Michigan."

"Wayne State University has been on the frontline of the effort to fight childhood obesity and encourage students and school staff to make healthy choices a priority in their classrooms, and Building Healthy Communities is critical to growing our footprint across the state," said Nate McCaughtry, director for the Center for School Health at Wayne State University. "What we see is students, teachers and school staff excited about making healthy choices, eating well, exercising and staying fit. Our program will help maintain the momentum we have built together and encourage people to make health decisions that could last their lifetimes."

Building Healthy Communities is a comprehensive, school-wide program created to fight childhood obesity. Since the inception of the program in 2009, over 35,000 students in 83 schools have been reached. Twenty-eight school buildings, reaching an additional 12,500 students, will be implementing the Building Healthy Communities program for the 2013-2014 school year. With its public, private and nonprofit partners, the Building Healthy Communities program continues to show a positive impact on students’ making healthy choices at a time when one in three children in the nation is obese or overweight and when the rate of childhood obesity has tripled in just 30 years.

"The Michigan Fitness Foundation looks forward to working closely with all our partners in this program to continue our 21-year history of providing Michigan residents with tools and inspiration for building physical activity and healthful eating into their daily routine," said Marilyn Lieber, president and CEO of the Michigan Fitness Foundation. "Building Healthy Communities is an important step in encouraging even more students to become healthy by helping students gain the knowledge, attitudes and skills to both eat well and be physically activity for life." 

For more information on Building Healthy Communities, please visit www.bcbsm.com/buildhealth.  


Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit organization, provides and administers health benefits to more than 4.4 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 bcbsm.com.

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