Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, Partner Organizations Continue Play Streets in Chicago

Partnership for a Healthier America and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association to support ongoing initiative to combat childhood obesity by creating spaces for play

CHICAGO, Nov 15, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- More Play Streets events are coming to Chicago neighborhoods that lack safe and open spaces for kids to play. Through support from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL) and the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA), Play Streets events will continue to be hosted by Active Transportation Alliance (Active Trans), Local Initiatives Support Corporation/Chicago (LISC/Chicago) and World Sport Chicago (WSC).

Spearheaded in Chicago by the Chicago Department of Public Health through a public-private partnership with BCBSIL, the program's original funder, Play Streets is a citywide initiative that secures city neighborhood streets to provide Chicago families with open and safe spaces to get active.

Play Streets spaces are fun and feature a variety of activities that promote fitness and healthy lifestyles. A few Play Streets activities include obstacle courses, jumping castles, jump rope, basketball, dancing and Zumba. It is an effective and creative way to address the childhood obesity epidemic in America.

Play Streets is endorsed by First Lady Michelle Obama as part of her "Let's Move!" physical activity and fitness campaign.

"We're committed to supporting efforts that foster wellness, disease prevention and healthy, active lifestyles," said Donna Gerber, BCBSIL's vice president of Community Investment. "We're thrilled to see the Association and PHA further our efforts to extend Play Streets in the Chicago communities."

"As many different partners work to make healthy lifestyles as accessible as possible, we need to remember that keeping kids active often isn't a secret – they just need safe places to be kids," said Andres Alvear, Active Trans' Director of Education and Outreach. "A PlayStreet provides a place for them to do just that, and it leverages Chicago's existing infrastructure. It's inexpensive, accessible and, most importantly, fun for the whole community."

Active Trans, LISC/Chicago and WSC will work with BCBSIL, BCBSA and PHA to hold regular Play Streets events in several Chicago neighborhoods. This is one of more than 50 grant programs by BCBSIL that promote active lifestyles and encourage lifelong healthy habits in Chicago and across the State of Illinois.

The impact on activity rates from Play Streets is expected to be significant. Pioneer programs in Chicago and elsewhere already demonstrate that when given the choice between participating in Play Streets or opting for sedentary interests, the majority of children choose the active play option. Programs also spur greater engagement and cohesion between community residents at Play Streets events.

"Today in America, one in five kids doesn't have access to a playground – that's millions of children who can't pick up a ball, run outside or have fun in a safe environment," said PHA President and CEO Lawrence A. Soler. "We're thrilled that Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois and its Chicago partners are proactively tackling this challenge by continuing Play Streets events. We can't wait to see the national initiative in action – to see kids running around in these spaces and to hear sounds of traffic replaced by sounds of kids at play."

Details about the location and dates of the Play Streets events in Chicago can be found online at www.ahealthieramerica.org/playstreets with further details announced in early 2013.

SOURCE Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois



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