DETROIT— Michigan K-12 schools are invited to apply for an innovative program that supports children’s health by providing students, teachers and administrators with the tools they need to create a healthy school environment.
The program, Building Healthy Communities: Step Up for School Wellness, is the result of a partnership between Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the Michigan Department of Education, Michigan State University Extension, Michigan Team Nutrition, the Michigan Fitness Foundation, United Dairy Industry of Michigan and Action for Healthy Kids.
Building Healthy Communities: Step Up for School Wellness is the newest addition to the Building Healthy Communities program, an evidence-based, comprehensive, schoolwide initiative that works with schools and their communities to teach kids healthy habits and address childhood obesity. The program, originally created by Blue Cross in 2009, has reached more than 100,000 students in more than 275 Michigan schools since its inception.
“The data show a clear, positive connection between good health and academic achievement, which is why Step up for School Wellness can play a key role in helping our kids establish healthy behaviors,” said Nick Lyon, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. “The Building Healthy Communities program is right in line with Governor Snyder’s MichiganHealthandWellness4x4 Plan. By working together to increase nutrition education, access to nutrient rich food and beverages, physical activity and physical education in our communities, we can find new and innovative ways to help youth succeed.”
The program provides financial support to fund staff and training, equipment and materials, and other resources for participating schools to develop, implement and sustain the wellness programs. The program can be customized to meet the needs of each recipient school.
“Building Healthy Communities: Step Up for School Wellness is about building a healthy school environment to support Michigan kids in the classroom and beyond,” said Lynda Rossi, executive vice president, Strategy and Public Affairs for Blue Cross. “This program is an extension of our ongoing efforts to help Michigan kids live longer, healthier lives.”
The Building Healthy Communities: Step Up for School Wellness program integrates the recommended process from Michigan’s new “Steps to a Healthy School” website and uses five action-focused steps to direct change. The steps are: build or re-energize a school health team; assess the school health environment; gather your tools and take action; evaluate and sustain; share successes and plan for the future.
State Superintendent Brian Whiston said, “This program is designed to be a great resource for schools that are interested in improving the health and academic growth of their students. The connection between good health and academic success is proven, and we are proud to support a program that will help move the needle on both.”
Each school selected will be able to choose one item each from a menu of two focus areas: physical activity and physical education, and healthy eating and nutrition education.
The physical activity menu includes: classroom physical activity breaks, active recess and quality physical education. The nutrition menu includes breakfast in the classroom, smarter lunchrooms, healthy parties and celebrations, and nutrition education.
“A balanced, healthy breakfast is the right start to a day for anyone, but especially important for students hoping to maximize their learning opportunity and experience. We are proud to be a part of this new program to expand healthy breakfasts in schools across Michigan,” said Sharon Toth, RD, chief executive officer of United Dairy Industry of Michigan.
All public, charter and private nonprofit schools in the state are eligible to apply for the program. The deadline for applying is 5 p.m. on Sep. 30. Applications must be submitted online at buildinghealthycommunities. arewehealthy.com.
Interested schools can participate in an informational webinar on the program Sep. 15 at 10 a.m. or 3 p.m. For more information on the program, or to register for the webinar, visit bcbsm.com/buildhealth.
Michigan Fitness Foundation President & CEO J.J. Tighe said, “Healthy habits are learned and a foundation for lifelong health. We are excited to provide this program to schools to reinforce the importance of physical activity and nutrition.”
Selected schools will be announced in October. The program will begin on Oct. 20.
Building Healthy Communities: Step Up for School Wellness supports Blue Cross’s ongoing commitment to children’s health and its #MIKidsCan campaign – an initiative focused on encouraging kids to adopt healthy habits early in life that are more likely to be carried into adulthood. Over the last 10 years, Blue Cross has given more than $6 million in support of kids’ health and wellness initiatives across the state, reaching more than 100,000 children. For more information on Blue Cross’s ongoing efforts to help improve childhood health, visit AHealthierMichigan.org/mikidscan or follow #MIKidsCan on Twitter. — G.G.