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Wisconsin Youth Invited to Join the Movement to Fight Childhood Obesity

Kicking off the fourth year, Youth Service America and UnitedHealthcare are calling all “Health Heroes” to apply for 2012 UnitedHealth HEROES grants.

Children and youth across Wisconsin once again have the opportunity to become “Health Heroes” by learning about childhood obesity, designing programs to address it and implementing the programs in their communities.

Kicking off the fourth year, Youth Service America and UnitedHealthcare are calling all “Health Heroes” to apply for 2012 UnitedHealth HEROES grants.

UnitedHealth HEROES is a service-learning, health literacy initiative designed to encourage young people, working with educators and youth leaders, to create and implement local hands-on programs to fight childhood obesity. As childhood obesity rates are increasing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) is taking the fight to Wisconsin and offering UnitedHealth HEROES grants to schools and youth-focused, community center-based programs.

Grants of up to $1,000 will be awarded to programs that demonstrate a clear understanding of the health risks associated with childhood obesity; propose creative solutions to fighting obesity in their schools and communities; and can be easily implemented, scaled and measured. In addition, each grant also engages participating youth in service-learning, an effective teaching and learning strategy that supports student academic achievement, and helps students develop their workplace readiness skills.

To obtain an application, visit www.YSA.org/HEROES. The website also contains more information about the program as well as “First Responders: Youth Addressing Childhood Obesity Through Service-Leaning,” a step-by-step manual that helps youth, parents, teachers and other volunteers deploy YSA service-learning models to fight childhood obesity in their communities. 

Applications must be submitted online before midnight, Oct. 17, 2011. Grant recipients will be notified in December and January.

“With the UnitedHealth HEROES program, 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 communities. We believe that as people become more aware of health issues through health literacy and advocacy initiatives they will make positive changes to live better lives,” said Wendy Arnone, CEO, UnitedHealthcare of Wisconsin. “We look forward to seeing the creative ideas young people come up with to help fight obesity and encourage healthier living.”

UnitedHealth Group is partnering with Youth Service America (YSA) to launch the fourth year of the UnitedHealth HEROES program. Research by Denver-based RMC Research Corp. has shown that young people who participate in service-learning programs improve their academic performance and critical-thinking skills, increase their confidence and sense of potential, and accept leadership roles. 

“Childhood obesity is a growing problem in American and links to long-term health issues, which can be alleviated by drawing awareness of and starting healthy habits at a young age, “ said Steve Culbertson, President and CEO of Youth Service America. “Youth Service America is proud to partner with UnitedHealthcare and mobilize children and youth to create, implement and solve childhood obesity.”

To date, UnitedHealthcare has awarded nearly 700 HEROES grants to schools and community organizations across the country. Earlier this year, more than 20,000 children and youth logged volunteer hours serving more their communities to help reduce childhood obesity. A list of previous grant winners is available at www.ysa.org.

UnitedHealth HEROES grant recipients will have the opportunity to showcase their projects on YSA’s 24th Annual Global Youth Service Day (GYSD), April 20-22, 2012. GYSD provides an opportunity for students to include their projects in a larger, global youth service movement that seeks to improve communities in all 50 states and more than 100 countries.

According to 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. In Wisconsin, nearly 30 percent of children ages 10 to 17 are considered overweight or obese. If left unchecked or untreated, obesity will affect 43 percent of adults by 2018, according to the 2009 America’s Health Rankings™, 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. 

About Youth Service America

Youth Service America (YSA) improves communities by increasing the number and the diversity of young people, ages 5-25, serving in substantive roles.  Founded in 1986, YSA supports a global culture of engaged youth committed to a lifetime of service, learning, leadership and achievement. The impact of YSA’s work through service and service-learning is measured in student achievement, workplace readiness and healthy communities. For more information, visit www.YSA.org.

About UnitedHealthcare

UnitedHealthcare is dedicated to helping people nationwide live healthier lives by simplifying the health care experience, meeting consumer health and wellness needs, and sustaining trusted relationships with care providers. The company offers the full spectrum of health benefit programs for individuals, employers and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and contracts directly with more than 650,000 physicians and care professionals and 5,000 hospitals nationwide. UnitedHealthcare serves more than 38 million people and is one of the businesses of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), a diversified Fortune 50 health and well-being company. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Peter Egan Jr. September 23, 2011 at 03:32 AM
They'd better keep it up. New research indicated children are becoming obese at a younger age than in previous years: http://blog.pamelaegan.com/blog/post/2011/05/30/Children-Becoming-Obese-at-a-Younger-Age.aspx

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