Healthier Communities Initiatives

Our Healthier Communities Initiatives (HCI) are built on the concept that local communities can work together to provide healthy choices and support the pursuit of healthy lifestyles. Ys across the country work in collaboration with community leaders to change policies and physical surroundings to bring healthy living within reach of all people.

Since this work began in 2004, local leaders reported having influenced more than 39,000 changes which have impacted up to 73 million lives. This infographic shows the impact that Healthier Communities Initiatives work has had on communities nationwide (see the impact of Y projects funded by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in this infographic).

NEW: We have released the final two issues of our digital magazine, Inspiring Change in Communities and States. In Issue 06: “Physical Activity at Schools,” you will see how teachers and kids are becoming more physically active during school hours.

Over in Issue 07: “Community Impact,” see how passion and lessons of individuals are producing big communitywide changes.

“Did you miss the past issues of our digital magazine, Inspiring Change in Communities and States? See them from beginning by checking out issues 01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 06 & 07.”

Transformational moments happen every day in the Y. See how Steve Tarver, CEO of the YMCA of Greater Louisville, has been "personally transformed."

Creating a Healthier Environment

Ys engaged in our Healthier Communities Initiatives (Pioneering Healthier Communities, Statewide Pioneering Healthier Communities and ACHIEVE) are helping families put nutritious food on the table by bringing farmers markets with fresh fruits and vegetables to neighborhoods where healthy food options are scarce; giving parents peace of mind when they let their kids walk to school by creating safer routes; and keeping a generation of kids healthier by working with schools to increase physical education and physical activity during the school day. These examples are just the beginning.

The Y's Healthier Communities Initiatives

  • Community Transformation Grants
  • Pioneering Healthier Communities (PHC)
  • Statewide Pioneering Healthier Communities (Statewide PHC) 
  • Action Communities for Health, Innovation and EnVironmental changE (ACHIEVE)
  • Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH)

Community Transformation Grants

As part of the Community Transformation Grant (CTG) program, the Y is expanding its efforts to make healthy living easier and more affordable where people work, live, learn, and play. The program is a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) initiative to support public health efforts to reduce chronic diseases, promote healthier lifestyles, reduce health disparities and lower health care costs. Y-USA is working with 10 local Ys to implement programs that support the health and well-being of individuals in their communities, with a specific focus on African American and Hispanic individuals.



Pioneering Healthier Communities

Pioneering Healthier Communities (PHC), which launched in 2004, is the signature initiative of Activate America that focuses on policy and environmental change in communities to promote healthy lifestyles. With support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and corporate and foundation donors, Y-USA has provided seed funding to 117 Ys across the country and their communities to take on this work.

Success Stories, Lessons and Leading Practices

Learn more about how our approach has helped communities succeed in making healthy change.

Statewide Pioneering Healthier Communities

Statewide Pioneering Healthier Communities builds on Y-USA’s PHC model to spread its learning and experience in community-level efforts, and develop these activities into statewide models for communities with some of the highest childhood obesity rates in the country. Supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the aim of this initiative is to address the childhood obesity epidemic through policy, systems and environmental changes that will have implications for communities, states and the nation. Communities in the following states are participating in Statewide PHC:  Connecticut, Kentucky, Tennessee,  Illinois, Michigan and Ohio.

Action Communities for Health, Innovation, and EnVironmental changE (ACHIEVE)

Launched in 2008 to support local health departments and YMCAs in advancing community leadership in the nation’s efforts to prevent chronic diseases and related risk factors,  ACHIEVE was inspired in part by the Y’s Pioneering Healthier Communities. ACHIEVE is designed to unite YMCAs, local and state health departments, parks and recreation departments and other community based organizations more formally in the fight against chronic disease. ACHIEVE is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and is a partnership among the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors (NACDD), the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), Society for Public Health Education and Y-USA.

The ACHIEVE model capitalizes on the experience and expertise of national organizations in strengthening community leadership, building capacity, and activating change. Establishing partnerships with national organizations to implement policy, systems, and environmental changes is an efficient and effective mechanism for achieving chronic disease prevention and health promotion goals in communities.



Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH)

The Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) program enables the Y to deepen its efforts to make healthy living a reality for individuals and families in communities where it can be difficult to adopt and maintain healthy lifestyles. The program is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which awarded the Y a grant to promote health and well-being in African American and Hispanic/Latino communities. The initiative has garnered widespread support from other national organizations that have brought additional resources and experience to this effort.

The Y selected 16 communities to participate in REACH. The communities work to implement Y strategies for achieving better health. These strategies include bringing fresh fruits and vegetables to communities with few to no healthy food options and making safe routes to school possible. By the end of the initiative, the 16 communities will have collectively impacted as many as 777,829 lives.


Community Healthy Living Index

Creating opportunities for healthy living makes a community stronger. The Community Healthy Living Index (CHLI) helps a community assess its support for healthy living in the places where people live, work, learn, and play, allowing their community members to lead fuller, healthier, lives. Healthy lifestyles are difficult to maintain without supportive environments. Many schools have reduced the number of hours for physical education, fast food restaurants often outnumber produce stands and road construction hasn't taken the needs of pedestrians and cyclists into consideration. The results are visible; more Americans are obese and at risk for chronic disease than ever before. CHLI equips communities with the needed tools to start working to reverse this trend, while building strong partnerships to strengthen the community fabric in the process.

Linking Policy and Environmental Strategies to Health Outcomes

Over the years, YMCA of the USA (Y-USA) has been asked by numerous communities for help in making the case for pursuing strategies to improve healthy eating and active living. Pursuing these strategies can be a challenging task because their results are often not immediate. If desired health outcomes are not immediately seen by decision makers, how do communities convey the potentially significant impact strategies can have on the long-term health and well-being of the community? What evidence can communities provide their decision makers to help demonstrate the positive health effects that can result from pursuing these strategies in their community? This resource provides the scientific evidence that can help collaborations or coalitions make the case about the need for and efficacy of strategies to reduce the prevalence of chronic disease in their communities.

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The YMCA is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.