YMCA Calls on Senate to Fund Community-Based Solutions to Address Childhood Obesity Crisis

Washington, DC, July 23, 2008—Philip J. Dwyer, president and CEO of the Central Connecticut Coast YMCA, offered testimony before the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee’s Subcommittee on Children and Families today to call for increased funds for community-based solutions, such as those implemented at YMCAs across the nation, that will help reduce rates of obesity among children.   

Dwyer spoke on behalf of the more than 2,600 YMCAs, that – for nearly 160 years – have been dedicated to the health of youth and families in America. Through Activate America – the YMCA’s response to the nation’s health crisis – YMCAs are changing the way they work inside their facilities to make them more supportive for people who need help adopting and maintaining a healthier lifestyle, and they are moving outside of their walls to act as a catalyst to improve community health. 

“At the YMCA, our goal is to make the healthy choice, the easy choice for individuals and families by ensuring that our communities have adequate opportunities for them to engage in healthy behaviors where they live, work, learn and play,” said Dwyer. “Few organizations are in a better position than the YMCA to support change in children and their families.  We have the knowledge, expertise, network and reach to succeed.”

Dwyer noted the YMCA’s long history of innovation in the area of health and well-being and highlighted recent successes from the YMCA’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-funded “healthier communities” initiatives – Pioneering Healthier Communities (PHC), ACHIEVE and Steps to a Healthier US – that focus on collaborative engagement with community leaders, how environments influence health and well-being, and the role public policy plays in sustaining change. A total of 116 communities across the nation participate in these initiatives and 20 new communities will be launched later this month.

Each year since 2004, a group of YMCA’s have been selected through PHC to convene community teams comprised of leadership from YMCAs and other community sectors such as schools, hospitals, businesses, health-focused foundations, faith communities, public health, health care purchasers, faith-based groups, government and academic institutions. These teams explore creative and proven strategies to transform their communities into healthier ones by increasing opportunities for physical activity, healthy eating, preventing tobacco use, and other strategies to prevent chronic disease.

Communities currently participating in PHC initiatives have had success in influencing community walkability and pedestrian safety, access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and physical education requirements in schools.  For example: the Central Connecticut Coast PHC team instituted "Friday is Fruit Day" in Milford, a No Child Left Inside Coalition, walking pathways and trails and walking school buses; a program at five Pittsburgh-area YMCAs made high-quality fresh fruits and vegetables available to community members to purchase at 40% market price; and, in Attleboro, Mass., they were able to get the right partners to the table to collaborate on the creation of an extensive city-wide trail system that would also connect to adjacent communities allowing commuters an opportunity to engage in physical activity and families an area for activity.

A recent study by the Trust for America’s Health indicated that investments in the types of interventions implemented at YMCAs and other community-based organizations could ultimately save America $16 billion in five years in health care costs.     

“I don’t believe that the YMCA can single-handedly improve health in America,” said Dwyer.  “But I don’t think health in America can be improved without the YMCA.  Our charitable mission calls us to support the healthy development of children and youth and to help find ways to combat the lifestyle health crisis.”

Read the full testimony here Opens a new window.

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The YMCA: A Long-Standing Commitment to Health of Spirit, Mind and Body
YMCA of the USA is the national resource office for the nation’s 2,686 YMCAs, which serve nearly 20.2 million people each year, including 9.4 million children under the age of 18. Through a variety of programs and services focused on the holistic development of children and youth, health and well-being for all and family strengthening, YMCAs unite men, women and children of all ages, faiths, backgrounds, abilities and income levels. From urban areas to small towns, YMCAs have proudly served America’s communities for nearly 160 years by building healthy spirit, mind and body for all. Visit to find your local YMCA.

Kelly Kennai
YMCA of the USA
312-520-0080 (cell)


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

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