More Than $187,000 in Grants Awarded to Schools and Community Groups to Help Fight Childhood Obesity

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Obesity is a critical problem among America’s children. According to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three children is obese or overweight, putting them on the road to lifelong chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease.

As childhood obesity rates continue to rise dramatically, UnitedHealthcare and YSA (Youth Service America) are supporting kids’ creative efforts to fight obesity through the UnitedHealth HEROES grant program by awarding $187,000 in HEROES grants to 282 schools and community-based organizations nationwide to address childhood obesity.

UnitedHealth HEROES, a service-learning, health literacy initiative developed by UnitedHealthcare and YSA, is designed to encourage young people, working with educators and youth leaders, to create and implement hands-on programs to encourage healthy eating and healthy lifestyles.

Grants of up to $1,000 each were awarded to programs that demonstrate a clear understanding of the health risks associated with childhood obesity; propose creative solutions to fight obesity in neighborhoods and communities; and can be effectively implemented, scaled and measured.

HEROES grantees also receive access to YSA’s field-tested learning resources to assist in creating projects with measurable impact on youth and their communities. Projects launch this month and span a 12- to 14-week period, culminating on Global Youth Service Day, the largest and longest-running service event in the world, April 20-22, 2012.

“We believe that children are uniquely positioned to come up with creative ideas to help their peers in the fight against obesity and to encourage healthier living,” said Kate Rubin, UnitedHealth Group vice president of Social Responsibility. “With UnitedHealth HEROES, we are helping young people take action to improve their overall health and quality of life in a way that’s not only educational, but beneficial for their entire community.

“UnitedHealth HEROES is part of UnitedHealthcare’s overall commitment to help stem the rising tide of obesity and related chronic health conditions like diabetes,” said Rubin.

“When we ask young people to tackle tough issues like childhood obesity, we’re helping to inspire the problem-solvers of today and tomorrow,” said Steve Culbertson, president and CEO of YSA. “UnitedHealth HEROES grants have a ripple effect: the benefits will be seen in communities nationwide now and well into the future. YSA applauds UnitedHealthcare for inviting young people to take action and create healthy communities.”

If left unchecked or untreated, obesity will affect 43 percent of adults by 2018 and will add nearly $344 billion in that year alone to the nation’s annual direct health care costs, accounting for more than 21 percent of health care spending, according to America’s Health Rankings. America’s Health Rankings is an annual state-by-state assessment of the nation’s health. It is published jointly by United Health Foundation, the American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention.

A complete list of grant winners and their projects is available online at ysa.org/HEROES.