Grants now available to schools and youth-focused community organizations in Michigan to create programs that fight childhood obesity
Dr. Richard Gajdowski, M.D., Medical Director, UnitedHealthcare of Michigan
We have heard time and again about our nation’s obesity epidemic. One way we can tackle the crisis is to look at where it sometimes begins – in childhood.
In Michigan, more than 30 percent of children ages 10 to 17 are obese or overweight. The national trend also is alarming – the obesity rate among children and adolescents has nearly tripled since 1980.
Without immediate action, these children will likely become obese adults, and a recent study indicates that this is an issue of life and death. Obese children are twice as likely as their healthy-weight peers to die from disease before age 55, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. Obesity is straining our national economy, with America spending $147 billion in direct health care costs associated with poor diet and physical inactivity, according to UnitedHealth Foundation’s 2011 America’s Health Rankings®.
We cannot remain idle. That’s why UnitedHealthcare is offering grants of up to $1,000 to schools and youth-focused, community-based organizations in Michigan to help create and implement walking, running or hiking programs aimed at fighting childhood obesity. The grants are available through the UnitedHealth HEROES program, a service-learning wellness initiative developed in collaboration with Youth Service America, a national nonprofit organization.
We are encouraging youths, parents, educators and community members to join us in this effort. In addition to creating formal programs, here are additional ideas on how to help keep kids active and eating right:
- Have your kids help in the kitchen, packing a healthy lunch or making a nutritious dinner.
- Have a basket of fruit and vegetables out for kids to snack on throughout the day.
- Have your kids try one new food every week; you never know if your children will like eggplant if they don’t try it!
- Experiment with smoothies. Carrots, spinach, a handful of berries and some low-fat yogurt make a delicious and nutritious treat. Kids will think it’s dessert!
- Encourage your child to walk or bike to school. If you drive them, arrive early and take a walk around the school before starting the day or when you pick them up at the end of the day.
- If you belong to a gym, take your child with you. Many gyms have a childcare center with lots of activities to entertain kids while mom and dad are working out.
It’s time to empower youth as problem-solvers in the fight against childhood obesity. If we work together as a community, we can achieve our common goal of helping our children’s generation overcome obesity.
To learn more about the HEROES program or how to apply for HEROES grants, visit www.ysa.org/HEROES.