YMCA of the USA Expands Healthy Communities Initiatives With $6.8 Million Grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Friday, December 12, 2008 General News J E 4
ARLINGTON, Va., Dec. 11 YMCA of the USA (Y-USA) hasreceived a $6.8 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF)to expand an innovative national initiative that helps communities addressrising rates of chronic disease. Pioneering Healthier Communities (PHC)encourages policy and environmental change in communities to promote healthylifestyles and provides opportunities for increased physical activity andimproved nutrition. The public announcement of the grant was made today atthe Activate America(R) Pioneering Healthier Communities national conferencein Arlington, Va.

"YMCAs have championed healthier communities for nearly 160 years. We arerecognized for our ability to bring people together on solutions to thechallenges communities across the country face. To produce lasting change, weneed to create healthier environments where we live, work, learn and play,"said Neil Nicoll, Y-USA of the USA president and chief executive officer."The investment by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will help us continue toaddress the critical issues that affect our nation's health and will allow usto provide support in the places it is needed most."

Every year since launching the initiative in 2004, Y-USA has chosen a newgroup of cities and counties to take on the charge of transforming theircommunities into healthier environments. The YMCAs in those areas thenconvene a team of local leaders who are committed to advancing policy andenvironmental change and who agree to help lead the process from planning toimplementation. Many of the communities involved in PHC to date havereinstated physical education in schools, strengthened school vending andsnack policies, improved trail systems and bike paths, created local walkingclubs, planted community gardens, started or enhanced farmers' markets andworked with mobile food pantries-all changes aimed at healthier living.

The new grant from RWJF will allow Y-USA to continue to spread itslearning and experience in community-level efforts and develop them as astatewide model for six states where childhood obesity rates are among thehighest in the country. These states will be identified early next year.Each team will receive $50,000 over a two year period to cover training andseed implementation of a community action plan.

"Combating obesity calls on us to change the very landscape of ourcommunities," said James Marks, M.D., M.P.H., a senior vice president anddirector, Health Group, at RWJF. "That's why the YMCA's approach here is soright and so exciting and why we are supporting it so enthusiastically."

Community teams selected to participate in Pioneering HealthierCommunities are provided with ongoing learning opportunities to explorecreative, proven strategies to improve their community's well-being throughgreater physical activity and healthy eating.

The initiative is part of Activate America(R), the YMCA's response toalarming trends in the nation's chronic disease rates. In addition to theRWJF grant, PHC is supported by a cooperative agreement from the Centers forDisease Control and Prevention (Cooperative Agreement #1U58DP001686).Contact: Kelly Kennai 202.835.9043



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