Five Grants Awarded In New Jersey To Fight Childhood Obesity

MINNETONKA, Minn. — As childhood obesity rates continue to rise dramatically, UnitedHealthcare is supporting kids’ creative efforts to battle obesity through its UnitedHealth HEROES grant program.

UnitedHealthcare, a UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) company, awarded five HEROES grants to schools and community organizations in New Jersey for youth-led projects that address childhood obesity.

UnitedHealth HEROES is a service-learning, health literacy initiative developed by UnitedHealthcare and Youth Service America (YSA) designed to encourage young people, working with educators and youth leaders, to create and implement hands-on programs to encourage healthy eating and healthy lifestyles.

Grants of up to $1,000 each were awarded to programs that demonstrate a clear understanding of the health risks associated with childhood obesity; propose creative solutions to fight obesity in neighborhoods and communities; and can be effectively implemented, scaled and measured. Projects will culminate April 20-22, 2012, on Global Youth Service Day, the world’s largest and longest-running youth-led service campaign.

New Jersey grant recipients include:

· Burlington Township High School for “Project SOCCER” (Soccer – Obesity prevention – Community service – Conference – Exercise – Recreation), an initiative by the girls’ soccer team to educate the community about exercise and health resources.

· Who Is My Neighbor? Inc. in Highland Park for “A Better World Culinary Camp,” a semester-long camp that teaches youth ages 5-25 about making healthy eating accessible, affordable and sustainable for all.

· New Brunswick Tomorrow for its “Hub Film Club” Teen Video Journalism & Public Service Announcement (PSA) program, in which students will create short video pieces about quality food and physical fitness activities in the community to later use in PSAs.

· FOCUS Hispanic Center for Community Development, Inc. in Newark for service-learning projects for students in its after-school program. Students will be able to choose community volunteer opportunities that may involve nutrition, physical activity, health screenings and distribution of community resource guides.

· Emily Fisher Public Charter High School in Trenton for its “SISTERS Circle” (Success, Innovation, Support, Training, Empowerment and Resources) program, a teaching and service-learning initiative for urban teens from economically disadvantaged communities that focuses on life-long wellness and fitness, learning skills, academic achievement and workplace readiness.

A complete list of grant winners and their projects is available online at

“We believe that children are uniquely positioned to come up with creative ideas to help their peers in the fight against obesity and to encourage healthier living,” said Michael McGuire, chief executive officer, UnitedHealthcare Employer & Individual of New Jersey. “With UnitedHealth HEROES, 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 entire community.

“UnitedHealth HEROES is part of UnitedHealthcare’s overall commitment to help stem the rising tide of obesity and related chronic health conditions like diabetes,” added Scott Waulters, president of UnitedHealthcare Community & State of New Jersey.

“When we ask young people to tackle tough issues like childhood obesity, we’re helping to inspire the problem-solvers of today and tomorrow,” said Steve Culbertson, president and CEO of YSA. “UnitedHealth HEROES grants have a ripple effect: the benefits will be seen in communities nationwide now and well into the future. YSA applauds UnitedHealthcare for inviting young people to take action and create healthy communities.”

Obesity is a critical problem among America’s children. According to recent data from 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 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, according to America’s Health Rankings®. America’s Health Rankings is an annual state-by-state assessment of the nation’s health. It is published jointly by United Health Foundation, the American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention.

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