Michigan elementary schools invited to participate in $1 million Building Healthy Communities program

Collaborative efforts focusing on children's health to emphasize physical activity, healthy eating and healthy breakfast in schools

Jan 31, 2013, 12:21 ET from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan

DETROIT, Jan. 31, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Michigan elementary schools can apply for a program that focuses on children's health through a partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM), Wayne State University Center for School Health, Michigan Fitness Foundation and the United Dairy Industry of Michigan. All public and private nonprofit elementary schools in the state are eligible to apply for the program, which is called Building Healthy Communities. Twenty elementary schools will be chosen to participate this year. The program is valued at $50,000 per school and will emphasize physical activity, healthy eating and healthy breakfasts in schools.

"Building Healthy Communities addresses a vulnerable time in youth development," said Shannon Carney Oleksyk, a registered dietitian and healthy living advisor for BCBSM. "The program uses an approach where children hear and see messages throughout the day that prompt them to make healthy choices — in classrooms, in the gym, in hallways, on the playground, in the cafeteria, and before or after the school day."           

BCBSM, Wayne State University Center for School Health, the Michigan Fitness Foundation and United Dairy Industry of Michigan, the newest partner to the program, have contributed $1 million in combined funding, expertise and resources in an effort to surround children and families with healthy eating and physical activity, especially among children in low-income urban areas. Building Healthy Communities, a comprehensive, healthy eating and physical activity program that provides school-wide support to improve children's health, increase academic success and help stem the growing economic and health care tidal wave of obesity in the state, has reached more than 45,000 students since it launched in 2009.

The additional healthy breakfast program component was made possible by the new partnership with the United Dairy Industry of Michigan.

"The addition of United Dairy Industry of Michigan to this partnership is a tremendous asset to the program and creates an even stronger, broader coalition of partners and supporters," said Nate McCaughtry, director for the Center for School Health at Wayne State University.  "Building Healthy Communities integrates best practices and evidence-based initiatives to make a difference improving the health of Michigan children — one school at a time."

"We are proud to join this partnership and continue United Dairy Industry of Michigan's commitment to promoting the health of Michigan's children," stated Sharon Toth, CEO of the United Dairy Industry of Michigan. "Offering breakfast in the classroom gives students greater access to healthy food and the opportunity to start the school day well-nourished.  Research has shown that school breakfast is linked to improved health, academic performance, attendance and classroom behavior."

Building Healthy Communities applications are due by March 15, 2013. Applications are available through the Wayne State University website at www.coe.wayne.edu/centerforschoolhealth/programs.php

Visit bcbsm.com/buildhealth or www.coe.wayne.edu/centerforschoolhealth for additional details about the Building Healthy Communities program.

Since 2009, BCBSM, the program's creator and primary funder, has invested more than $3 million in Building Healthy Communities program. This program is part of BCBSM's mission to promote healthier lifestyles, prevent childhood obesity, reduce associated health risks and improve the health status of Michigan residents.

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.

Wayne State University is a premier urban research university offering 370 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to nearly 29,000 students.

The Governor's Council on Physical Fitness, Health and Sports and the Michigan Fitness Foundation envision a physically educated population with the knowledge and skills to enjoy a healthy, vigorous and safe lifestyle in communities designed to support physical activity.  For more information, visit www.michiganfitness.org

The United Dairy Industry of Michigan is the umbrella organization for the Dairy Council of Michigan and the American Dairy Association of Michigan. On behalf of funding members, these non-profit organizations provide science-based nutrition information to, and in collaboration with, a variety of stakeholders committed to fostering a healthier society, including health professionals, educators, school nutrition directors, academia, industry, consumers and media. For more information, visit www.udim.org.

SOURCE Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan