YMCA of the USA Taps 16 Communities in Major Expansion of Initiative to Reverse Childhood Obesity Epidemic

Towns and Cities in 3 Midwest States Will Work to Promote Healthier Options for Children and Families

CHICAGO, (July 19, 2010) Sixteen communities in Illinois, Michigan and Ohio have been chosen to build critical statewide networks that will target childhood obesity, YMCA of the USA (Y-USA) announced today.

The communities will be part of Y-USA's Statewide Pioneering Healthier Communities (PHC) initiative, which aims to reduce childhood obesity through policy, systems and environmental changes that help transform communities, states and the nation. These 16 communities join 16 others selected in 2009 from Connecticut, Kentucky and Tennessee.

The new communities include:

  • In Illinois: Chicago, Glen Ellyn, Joliet, Kankakee, Oak Park, Peoria, Quincy and Schaumburg.
  • In Michigan: Adrian, Owosso and Port Huron.
  • In Ohio: Dover, Mansfield, Marion, Piqua and Toledo.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has committed $6.8 million over five years to support expansion of the Y's community-based PHC model, which applies proven policy change strategies that support health and well being. Drawing on that experience, Statewide PHC will engage state leaders and policy-makers to apply the most successful community polices at the state level.

Since 2004, communities involved in PHC have improved pedestrian safety and neighborhood walkability; increased residents' access to fresh fruits and vegetables; and strengthened physical education requirements in schools. As of this year, 164 communities are participating in the Y's Healthier Communities Initiatives.

The 16 new communities will receive funding over a three-year period to design and implement a plan for making changes in their built environments that will improve residents' health. RWJF funding will allow the Y to continue to share its expertise and lessons learned from community-level efforts and develop statewide models based on these efforts.

"The Y is bringing leaders from all sectors together to make changes that will result in healthier communities," said Neil Nicoll, Y-USA president and chief executive officer.  "Statewide PHC extends the mission of the Y beyond our walls, giving back and providing support to our neighbors throughout the community with a proven model for creating healthier opportunities in order to fight childhood obesity."

"We enthusiastically support the Y-USA expansion to these new communities," said James S. Marks, M.D., M.P.H., senior vice president and Health Group director at RWJF. "So many of its communities across the country are finding innovative and resourceful ways to prevent and reduce childhood obesity, and it is exciting to see local efforts turning into statewide initiatives. As a nation we need this kind of effort everywhere."

The effective transition of the local PHC model into a statewide policy model will require the coordination and cooperation of many agencies and groups. YMCA State Alliances will work with a team of state policy-makers and leaders to examine existing policies and practices regarding childhood obesity. Together, they'll then propose a state plan to respond to the public health challenges of obesity, physical inactivity and poor nutrition.

The statewide team will work in partnership with leadership teams in each community to ensure that each local action plan supports statewide efforts. The 16 teams will focus on collaborative engagement with community leaders as they consider how environments influence health and well-being and public policy's role in sustaining change.

Lead members from each of the 16 communities in the PHC statewide initiative, called coaches, will attend a Coaches Meeting in October 2010 in Washington, D.C., and learn methods and strategies for building and facilitating community leadership teams.  Complete leadership teams from all 16 communities will then return to Washington, D.C. in February 2011 for a conference at which they will learn strategies for policy and environmental change from the nation's leading experts in physical activity, nutrition and building healthy environments.

Statewide PHC is rooted in the principle that a multi-faceted, community-based approach focusing on policy, systems and environmental change strategies is needed to make a lasting impact.  For more information about Statewide Pioneering Healthier Communities go to www.ymca.net.


About YMCA of the USA YMCA of the USA is the national resource office for the Y, one of the nation's leading nonprofits strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.  Across the U.S., 2,687 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 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.

Contact:  Kelly Kennai 202.835.9043 kelly.kennai@ymca.net

Monday, July 19, 2010

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