EMU receives Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation grant to help Ypsilanti schoolchildren lead healthier lives
YPSILANTI — A grant from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation will bring together a Michigan university and several local elementary schools to help youngsters learn healthy lifestyle habits they can take into adulthood.
Eastern Michigan University will use a BCBSM Foundation grant to work with four Ypsilanti elementary schools, Brick, Childs, Model and Redner — part of Lincoln Consolidated Schools — to bring a wellness program to 1,770 elementary schoolchildren as well as their teachers and other school employees.
“Reaching children at this early stage, before serious problems develop, can help them avoid obesity and associated chronic diseases later in life,” said Ira Strumwasser, executive director and CEO of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation. “As a foundation concerned about the health status of Michigan residents, we are clearly interested in a community collaboration that can help the state build an active, healthy workforce of the future.”
EMU’s wellness program has two parts: Win to Lose and Shape Up. Shape Up is for kindergarten through fifth-graders while Win to Lose is for teachers and other school employees. The program is supported by a two-year, $167,000 foundation grant.
The Win to Lose segment for school employees is instrumental in helping pupils succeed in the Shape Up program, said Christine Karshin, associate professor of health education in EMU’s School of Health Promotion and Human Performance.
“The modeling of healthy behaviors by teachers and other school employees is an important key to this program. Childhood obesity prevention programs often fail because they don’t get support from the school environment,” Karshin said. “School employees will see personal benefits from this program and in turn will be equipped to engage children in the classroom.”
School employees began their Win to Lose portion of the program in early September by participating in stress management and nutrition workshops held by EMU faculty from health education, physical education, dietetics and social work departments. The workshops are geared to reducing their risk of weight-related illnesses by developing teams with an ultimate goal of losing the greatest percentage of weight.
Shape Up, the schoolchildren portion of the program, begins in January when EMU staff will take baseline data of each pupil’s activity levels and eating habits just before pupils begin the voluntary program. Schoolchildren will then learn how to develop a positive physical and mental image, eat healthier, be active at least one hour per day, decrease video “screen time” to two hours per day, and learn sports skills they can enjoy throughout life. Pupils’ families also will be encouraged to participate. The information will be compared with activity and eating habits one year later.
“Elementary school is an ideal time to teach behaviors and foster excitement about being physically active,” said Lynn Cleary, superintendent of Lincoln Consolidated Schools. “We look forward to participating in this program and seeing positive results for our teachers and students.”
The Shape Up program will be supported by health fairs and workshops, physical activity instruction and family activities.
The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation is dedicated to improving the health of Michigan residents by supporting health care research and innovative health programs. The foundation’s grant programs are conducted in Michigan by Michigan-based researchers and nonprofit community health care organizations. For more information, visit bcbsm.com/foundation.
Eastern Michigan University is a public, comprehensive university that offers programs in the arts, sciences and professions. EMU prepares students with the intellectual skills and practical experiences to succeed in their career and lives, and to be better citizens.
Editor's Note: Looking for an expert source for a story? Check out EMU's Eastern Experts online at www.emich.edu/univcomm/easternexperts.