''HEROES'' Unite! Youth Invited to Join the Movement to Fight Childhood Obesity

  • “UnitedHealth HEROES” grants now available to schools and youth-focused, community center-based programs across the country
  • Community-focused, service-learning initiative by UnitedHealthcare and Youth Service America

MINNETONKA, Minn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Young people across the country 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, UnitedHealthcare, a UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) company, is offering UnitedHealth HEROES grants to schools and youth-focused, community center-based programs across the country.

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 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 contains additional 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.

“Childhood obesity is a serious health issue for young people, with more than 30 percent of our nation’s youth now overweight. The exciting thing is that youth have an amazing power to influence peers and initiate positive change. That’s why we are excited to offer these grants again this year,” said Kate Rubin, UnitedHealth Group vice president of social responsibility. “We look forward to seeing the creative ideas young people come up with to help fight obesity and encourage healthier lifestyles.”

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 America 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 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. 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.

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UnitedHealth Group
Lauren Mihajlov, 952-936-3068
[email protected]

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