The Y and Sam's Club® Partner to Create Healthier Communities in Arkansas - and Across the Country

Oct 26, 2011, 10:12 ET from YMCA of the USA

Five communities will participate in a statewide effort to help prevent chronic diseases

LITTLE ROCK, Ark., Oct. 26, 2011  /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- YMCA of the USA (Y-USA) and Sam's Club announced today that five communities in Arkansas have been selected to join the Y's Statewide Pioneering Healthier Communities (Statewide PHC) initiative – an effort to improve the nation's health through strategies that increase opportunities for healthy eating and physical activity.  

The announcement was made at a special event at the State House Convention Center with First Lady of Arkansas, Ginger Beebe and Arkansas Surgeon General, Dr. Joe Thompson.

Statewide PHC is part of the Y's Healthier Communities Initiatives, which engage community leaders in making changes to policy and physical surroundings in their communities to ensure that healthy living is within reach for individuals of all ages and backgrounds. Statewide PHC builds on the Y's local PHC model, taking lessons learned at the community-level, and applying them to statewide strategies for communities with some of the highest childhood obesity rates in the country. Childhood obesity is being addressed by these communities because it has been shown to be the greatest predictor of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.  

Five Ys have been selected to lead this initiative by bringing together community leaders and organizations.  The selected Ys include:

  • YMCA of Northwest Arkansas (Bentonville)
  • YMCA of Hot Springs
  • Jonesboro YMCA
  • YMCA of Metropolitan Little Rock
  • YMCA of Warren and Bradley County

As Statewide PHC participants, each Y will convene a team of local leaders to work in their communities to create sustainable change through policy, systems and environmental changes at the state level. Teams may include elected officials, state and local directors of public health departments, business leaders from various industries and leaders of local schools, parks and recreation departments, nonprofits, foundations and hospitals. The teams will plan and implement strategies for healthy change, responding to the needs of their individual communities.

"We know that communities in Arkansas are disproportionately affected by childhood obesity and deepening our work in these communities will help us achieve our goal of improving the nation's health," says Neil Nicoll, president and CEO of YMCA of the USA, the national resource office for the nation's 2,700 Ys. "We are honored to have partners like Sam's Club to help us combat these issues and make a deeper impact in communities around the country."

This opportunity is the result of a $1.4 million gift from Sam's Club to Y-USA that has also helped expand Statewide PHC to new communities in Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, as well as provided support for other YMCA healthy living initiatives.

The Y and Sam's Club understand that prevention and awareness programs are key to helping people make healthy choices and lifestyle changes that make a difference in reducing obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other chronic diseases. Sam's Club recognizes that chronic disease prevention is a critical concern for its members as well as members' families and employees, and has made a commitment to support programs that address health and wellness issues at the local level on a national scale.  

This shared desire to address increasing chronic disease and obesity rates across the United States has led Sam's Club to partner with the Y to jointly affect positive changes in communities throughout the United States, along with a specific statewide focus in Arkansas, through grants targeted to support the Y's healthy living initiatives.

"We are honored to help the Y create healthier communities, and to have every community with a Y in Arkansas participate in improving the health and wellness in our home state," said Jill Turner-Mitchael, Senior Vice President of Health and Wellness at Sam's Club. "Sam's Club is committed to helping individuals and families access opportunities for healthy living."

Since 2004, 190 communities have participated in the Y's Healthier Communities Initiatives, which have influenced an estimated 14,000 sustainable changes to support healthy living in communities and up to 34 million lives through community improvements that include everything from making fresh fruits and vegetables more readily available to creating safer sidewalks and building bike trails.  

About the Y
The Y is one of the nation's leading nonprofits strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Across the U.S., 2,700 Ys engage 21 million men, women and children – regardless of age, income or background – to nurture the potential of children and teens, improve the nation's health and well-being, and provide opportunities to give back and support neighbors. Anchored in more than 10,000 communities, the Y has the long-standing relationships and physical presence not just to promise, but to deliver, lasting personal and social change.  

About Sam's Club
Sam's Club supports community-based programs that empower young people, families and small businesses to make smart choices that lead to healthy and bright futures. Through cash and in-kind donations, as well as the dedication of associates, Sam's Club is committed to making an impact in areas that align with the company, and with the passions and interests of members. In 2010, the Sam's Club Giving Program made cash and in-kind contributions of more than $89 million, which included donating more than 65 million meals.

Kelly Kennai
YMCA of the USA
800 932 9622 ext. 4736