YMCA of the USA Applauds U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Education for Focusing on Student Health

Statement of Matt Longjohn, MD, MPH, National Health Officer

CHICAGO, January 15, 2015--YMCA of the USA applauds the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education for the “Healthy Students, Promising Futures” action steps tool.  Schools provide a one stop opportunity to reach most of America’s children and it is essential that we utilize the school setting to maximize health opportunities for all our youth.

As one of the nation’s largest providers of early childhood and afterschool programs, the Y provides environments where parents can feel confident that their children are safe, healthy and engaging in activities that lead to academic success.  Because so many of the Y’s afterschool programs are offered in a school setting, Ys have built deep and meaningful relationships with schools across the nation.

Many of the “High-Impact Opportunities” outlined in Healthy Students, Promising Futures align with strategies advanced by the Y at the local, state and national levels including:

  • In 20 states and more than 245 communities Ys have facilitated leadership efforts among diverse stakeholders to advance policy changes that promote healthy eating and physical activity in the school and afterschool settings, as well as in the larger communities where children live, learn, and play.  More than 39,000 strategies were advanced impacting the lives of 73 million Americans.  From increasing physical activity opportunities through safe routes to school programs, increasing physical education and recess to improving the food environments for our students, Ys have focused on surrounding children with opportunities for healthier foods and activity options.  In our own settings we have committed to and are implementing rigorous healthy eating and physical activity (HEPA) standards to make us not just the largest, but the healthiest, provider of early childhood and afterschool programs. (High-Impact Opportunity #4, Promote Healthy School Practices Through Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Health Education)
  • The Y has facilitated community-wide assessment opportunities for healthy eating and physical activity through its Community Healthy Living Index. School, afterschool, early child care, neighborhoods, worksites, clinical settings and the larger community can be assessed using this tool, and these assessments can inform the larger Hospital Community Needs Assessment.  Additionally, Ys work directly with schools to provide health and well-being programming, sports and aquatics opportunities to America’s students. (High-Impact #5, Build Local Partnerships and Participate in Hospital Community Health Needs Assessment)
  • Ys have spent the last decade scaling several evidence-based prevention and control interventions that can prevent and control chronic disease with physical activity and better nutrition.  The Y most recently announced it was preparing to scale an evidence-based childhood obesity program named Healthy Weight and Your Child.  Ultimately the Y hopes to engage private and public payers, like Medicaid to reimburse for this program and the schools would be an important community location to deliver this program to children and their caregivers.  (High-Impact Opportunity #2 , Provide and Expand Reimbursable Health Services in School)

In addition to collaborating with national and community-based leaders to increase the resources and support that empower our neighbors and improve their health, Ys are providing space and support for enrollment experts to educate families about their insurance opportunities. 

Whether providing a space and support for enrollment experts to educate families about their insurance options, empowering people to take control of their health through chronic disease prevention and control programs, or ensuring environments can support healthy eating and physical activity, the Y looks forward to working with our federal partners to ensure our nation’s children have the support they need to learn, grow and thrive.

Friday, January 15, 2016

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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.