(WPGN/WGTU) -- Nearly 150 schools across Michigan were chosen to join the Building Healthy Communities program this year to improve health and wellness through better nutrition and physical activity for their students.
Building Healthy Communities is an evidence-based, comprehensive, school-wide initiative that supports children’s health by providing students, teachers and administrators with tools and resources to improve student health while creating a healthier school environment.
Building Healthy Communities helps kids build lifelong, healthy habits and address childhood obesity through the transformation of school environments. First launched by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan in 2009, the program has now been embraced by more than 500 schools across the state, and has helped over 240,000 students develop better habits and live healthier lives.
Building Healthy Communities is a private-public initiative supported by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the Michigan Department of Education, the Michigan Fitness Foundation, Michigan State University Extension, Michigan Team Nutrition, the United Dairy Industry of Michigan, the University of Michigan and the Wayne State University Center for School Health and Action for Healthy Kids.
The program has a long history of measurable and demonstrated impact on improving the health of Michigan kids including:
40 percent more fruit and vegetable consumption than the national average
700 step increase per day
35 additional minutes per week of moderate and vigorous physical activity,
19 minutes less screen and video time per day,
26 percent more participation in school sports,
130 percent more energy reported and
74 percent increased attention span in class.
“Building Healthy Communities has been an enormous success in Michigan, helping hundreds of thousands of students stay active and make better food choices,” said Lynda Rossi, senior vice president of Strategy and Public Affairs at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. “As schools implement healthier initiatives, we’re seeing the benefits extend beyond the classroom as well. On average, students that take part in this program report that they are more active, burn more calories and eat more fruits and vegetables than their peers.”
Catering to the unique needs of differing age groups and learning environments, schools were given three Building Healthy Communities opportunities to choose from:
Engaging Elementary Schools through Partnership (elementary schools): Healthy habits start young, and the elementary school program helps establish the knowledge and behaviors needed for a healthy lifestyle. This program provides curriculums and resources that educate students through classroom lessons and physical education; create a healthy, supportive environment that makes the healthy choice the easy choice; encourage students to practice lessons learned in the classroom; increase access to physical activity; and increase access to healthy, nutrient-rich food and beverages.
Engaging Middle Schools through Project Healthy Schools (middle schools): Project Healthy Schools targets students when they are at an age of increasing autonomy to give them the information and opportunity to make healthy choices that will lead to healthy habits throughout life. The middle school program helps establish a healthy school environment that supports higher levels of academic achievement by building or energizing a school wellness team and selecting a wellness champion; assessing the school health environment and making a plan for improvement; educating students and empowering them to make healthy food and physical activity choices; and creating a healthy school environment where the healthy choice is the easy choice.
Step-Up for School Wellness (K-12): This program provides students, teachers and administrators with the tools they need to create a healthy school environment that supports a culture of wellness. It is a customizable program that gives schools the resources to identify needs and pick solutions from two focus areas: physical activity and physical education, and healthy eating and nutrition education.
The schools in northern Michigan receiving the program for the 2016-2017 school year include:
Cherry Knoll Elementary School
Courtade Elementary School
East Jordan Elementary School
Glen Lake Elementary K-6
Hillman Elementary School
Soo Township Elementary School
Westwoods Elementary School
Boyne City Middle School
Cherryland Middle School
East Middle School
Gaylord High School
Gaylord Intermediate School
Gaylord Middle School
Immaculate Conception Catholic School
Sault Area Middle School