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YMCA Expands Pioneering Healthier Communities Initiative to Lead Healthy Change in Communities Nationwide
Date:9/9/2009

WASHINGTON, Sept. 9 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- YMCA of the USA (Y-USA) announced that 21 new communities are joining Pioneering Healthier Communities (PHC), its signature initiative that brings together high-level community leaders to create environments that help sustain healthy behaviors through environmental and policy change. PHC is funded through a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Since its inception in 2004, PHC has tasked a new group of communities with transforming their hometowns into model healthy communities each year. Communities involved in PHC have had success in influencing systemic changes that affect community walkability and pedestrian safety; access to fresh fruits and vegetables; worksite wellness and physical education requirements in schools.

"Y-USA created PHC to address the growing rates of chronic disease caused largely by inactivity and poor diet. We understood that we could have a greater impact if we empowered communities to work together to build and sustain healthier neighborhoods," said Neil Nicoll, YMCA of the USA President and CEO. "By stepping outside of our walls, YMCAs have also been able to change the way local leaders think about how their communities impact healthy lifestyles."

PHC is part of the YMCA's Healthier Communities Initiatives, which also includes Statewide PHC (funded by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation) and Action Communities for Health, Innovation, and EnVironmental ChangE (funded by CDC). The Healthier Communities Initiatives engage community leaders, convened by local YMCA's, in policy and environmental change efforts that support and promote healthy lifestyles. These initiatives empower local communities with proven strategies and models to create and sustain positive, lasting change for healthy living.

2009 Pioneering Healthier Communities

YMCAs in 21 communities across the country are convening local leaders this year to respond to public health challenges: Lompoc, Calif.; Long Beach, Calif.; Ontario, Calif.; Moultrie, Ga.; Honolulu, Hawaii; Evansville, Ind.; Noble County, Ind.; Greater Cadillac Area, Mich.; Kalamazoo, Mich.; Albert Lea, Minn.; Duluth, Minn.; Fulton, Mo.; St. Joseph, Mo.; Flemington, N.J.; Burlington County, N.J.; Guildford County, N.C.; Defiance, Ohio; Oklahoma City, Okla.; Grants Pass, Ore.; Philadelphia, Pa.; Windham County, Vt.

Early Community Successes

Communities involved in PHC are focused on various local challenges ranging from devising ways to excite youth and older adults about physical activity, supporting employees in their pursuit of health and well-being, and improving school nutrition to enhancing the environment to allow for more opportunities for activity and access to healthy foods, and influencing relevant public policy.

Pioneering Healthier Communities teams are:

  • Influencing policy makers to provide opportunities for kids to be physically active before, during and after the school day.
  • Building new or enhancing existing walking/biking trails and sidewalks for community members to be active;
  • Working with employers to provide workplaces that support healthy eating and activity; and
  • Providing opportunities for residents to purchase and consume fresh fruits and vegetables through community-gardens, farmers markets, and other activities.

What's Next for the 2009 Pioneering Healthier Communities

Following the model of the 2004-08 communities, YMCAs in these new 21 communities will bring together a team of local leaders, including elected officials, state and local directors of public health organizations, business leaders from various industries and leaders of local schools, parks and recreation departments, foundations and hospitals who will plan and implement strategies for healthy change. These teams will convene at the Pioneering Healthier Communities national conference December 9-11 in Washington, D.C. This sixth-annual conference will focus on educating these community leaders about strategies and models for bringing about community solutions that have been replicated nationwide. Attendees will learn about evidence-based approaches to affecting change from nationally-known experts. Previous experts have included: former Acting Surgeon General Steven Galson, M.D.; Dr. Julie Gerberding, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Sally Squires, formerly of The Washington Post and columnist of "The Lean Plate Club;" Mark Fenton, contributing editor of Health magazine and a PBS TV series host; Dr. Ken Thorpe, Executive Director of the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease; Tyler Norris, co-founder of Community Initiatives; Roberto Salazar, Administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service; and Dr. Jeffrey Levi, Executive Director of Trust for America's Health.

In addition to funding from CDC, this critical initiative has also received generous support from Kellogg's Corporate Citizenship Fund, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, PepsiCo Foundation, Aquafina, JCPenney Afterschool Fund and Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

Pioneering Healthier Communities (PHC) is part of Activate America, the YMCA's response to the nation's growing health crisis. PHC was developed with expert advice and assistance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Their input is helping to build an infrastructure for replicating model programs and approaches to develop healthy communities nationwide. In past years, Y-USA was joined in this effort by National Presenting Sponsors - PepsiCo Foundation, Aquafina, Kellogg's Corporate Citizenship Fund, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, JCPenney Afterschool Fund, and Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), and by Expert Advisors - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Action for Healthy Kids, Active Living by Design, Alliance for a Healthier Generation, American Hospital Association, American Planning Association, Association for Community Health Improvement, Directors of Health Promotion and Education, the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors, National Park Service, National Recreation and Park Association, President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, Society for Public Health Education, Stanford University Prevention Research Center, Trust for America's Health and University of North Carolina Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. Activate America builds upon the YMCA's proud heritage of pioneering timely programs that respond to societal needs.

For more information about Pioneering Healthier Communities go to www.ymca.net/activateamerica

The YMCA: A Long-Standing Commitment to Health of Spirit, Mind and Body

YMCA of the USA is the national resource office for the nation's 2,686 YMCAs, which serve 21 million people each year, including nearly 10 million children under the age of 18. YMCAs respond to critical social needs by drawing on their collective strength as one of America's largest not-for-profit community service organizations. Through a variety of programs and services focused on the holistic development of children and youth, family strengthening, and health and well-being for all, YMCAs unite men, women and children of all ages, faiths, backgrounds, abilities and income levels. From urban areas to small towns, YMCAs have proudly served America's communities for nearly 160 years by building healthy spirit, mind and body for all. Visit http://www.ymca.net to find your local YMCA.

    CONTACT: Kelly Kennai
    YMCA of the USA
    202-835-9043
    kelly.kennai@ymca.net


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SOURCE YMCA of the USA
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