YMCA of the USA Expands Statewide Initiative to Reverse Childhood Obesity Epidemic

Illinois, Michigan and Ohio will receive funding for community-level efforts to change policies and environments to support health living

CHICAGO, IL, May 13, 2010—YMCA of the USA, today, announced the addition of three states to the YMCA Statewide Pioneering Healthier Communities (PHC) initiative. Statewide PHC aims to address childhood obesity through policy and environmental changes that impact communities, states and the nation. Communities in Illinois, Michigan and Ohio will join this initiative to bring leaders together to focus on policy, systems, and environmental change in the places where they live, work learn and play and to expand these changes to the entire state. 

“Reversing the trend of childhood obesity in the United States must become a priority for all segments of our communities – businesses, schools, government, and the nonprofits,” said Neil Nicoll, YMCA of the USA president and CEO. “We need to ensure that all leaders are engaged so that their influence and authority can propel changes at the local and state levels.”

Statewide PHC is an expansion of YMCA’s Community-Based PHC model, which applies proven policy change strategies that support health and well being.  Drawing on the Y’s experience with the community-based PHC model, Statewide PHC will engage state leaders and policy-makers in expanding polices from the community level to have an impact on the entire state. Since 2004, communities involved in PHC have successfully improved pedestrian safety and neighborhood walkability; access to fresh fruits and vegetables; and physical education requirements in schools. There are currently 148 active Community-based PHC sites. “Expanding PHC to the state level is the next step in creating an environment that makes healthier communities a reality throughout all of America,” added Nicoll.

State-based efforts are made possible through a five-year, $6.8 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), which will allow YMCA of the USA to work with six states and 32 communities that have high levels of childhood obesity. Teams in the three new states will receive funding over a four-year period to design and implement a State Action Plan for making their communities healthier. In 2009, Tennessee, Kentucky and Connecticut became the first states selected to expand the community-level PHC to a statewide initiative.

“We are encouraged by the early progress of the YMCA’s statewide initiative and excited to support an expansion of its efforts,” said James Marks, M.D., M.P.H., senior vice president and director, Health Group, at RWJF.  “The YMCA has always been committed to improving the nation’s health and well being.  The organization is now stepping forward to be an even more effective leader for good health in communities and states.  Our nation needs organizations like the YMCA to take just this kind of stand.”

Statewide PHC is rooted in the principle that a multi-faceted, community-based approach focusing on policy and environmental change strategies is needed to make a lasting impact. 

What’s Next for PHC State Alliances? Over the next few months, communities from Illinois, Michigan and Ohio will submit applications to YMCA of the USA to identify a total of 16 communities that will participate in the initiative. Communities chosen to participate from within these three states will be announced in July.  For more information about Statewide PHC, please visit

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About YMCA of the USA YMCA of the USA is the national resource office for the nation's 2,687 YMCAs, which serve 21 million people each year, including more than 9 million children under the age of 18. Pioneering Healthier Communities (PHC) is a part of the YMCA’s response to the nation’s growing health crisis.  Through PHC, YMCAs are engaging communities across the country to provide better opportunities for Americans of all ages who are struggling to achieve and maintain well-being of spirit, mind and body.  Visit to find your local YMCA.

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 35 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime. For more information, visit

Contact: Kelly Kennai 800-932-9622

Thursday, May 13, 2010

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