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Youth Find Innovative Solutions to Leading Health Threat

YSA and UnitedHealth Group 'HEROES' grants to help students address childhood obesity.

WASHINGTON, Aug. 10 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Youth Service America (YSA) and UnitedHealth Group team up for the second year to offer UnitedHealth HEROES grants to youth-led service-learning projects addressing childhood obesity.

Educators, service-learning coordinators, and students in the health professions are eligible to apply for service-learning project grants. Grant recipients will receive up to $1,000 in support for initiatives that engage youth, ages 5-25, in the planning and implementation process.

Service-learning projects that focus on childhood obesity result in higher academic achievement for the participants and positive outcomes for the communities served. The grant cycle opens August 1 and applications are due October 22, 2009.

To obtain an application, visit and click on the "Grants and Awards" tab; then click on "UnitedHealth HEROES." The Web site also contains more information about the program and resources for gathering information on the risk factors associated with childhood obesity.

This past spring, YSA distributed 100 grants to projects that took place in 15 states. (This year 34 states and Washington, D.C. are eligible - see full list below). Youth and project facilitators developed innovative ways to address childhood obesity, including:

  • 32 students in Farmingdale, NY. devoted a semester to learning about childhood obesity, filming discussions with public officials and local experts. The resulting film raised awareness of the epidemic during a healthy dinner for friends and family.
  • 50 elementary school students in Royal Palm Beach, FL. created a fitness trail on their campus that including stretching, balance, and strength activities. The trail is available for student and faculty use and the planning was developed through the P.E. courses.
  • High school students in Defiance, OH analyzed the menu offerings at the middle school in their district. They researched the fat, protein, sugar, and caloric contents of the meals, compared the actual serving size to the recommended serving size, and informed the school board how much exercise kids would have participate in to burn off a single meal.

Additional project descriptions are available at

"Childhood obesity is one of the greatest health issues facing children and youth in the U.S.," said Steve Culbertson, YSA president and CEO. "UnitedHealth HEROES provides young people the rare, but important, opportunity to address this epidemic. I'm thrilled to see how youth are educating and engaging their peers through such innovative solutions."

"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 communities. We believe that as people become more aware of health issues through health literacy and advocacy initiatives they will make positive changes to live better lives," said Daniel Johnson, UnitedHealth Group vice president, Social Responsibility.

"Now, teams of students can collaborate with teachers and community leaders to develop their own programs to make their schools and neighborhoods healthier. We look forward to seeing the creative ideas our young people come up with to help fight obesity and encourage healthier living."

In addition to the grants, YSA and UnitedHealth Group published "First Responders: Youth Addressing Childhood Obesity Through Service-Learning," a project planning module that provides the necessary information for school and community educators to develop effective projects. With data, project examples, and links to additional resources, educators have the tools to connect childhood obesity to a variety of learning areas, such as language arts, science, math, and civics. Educators and youth can download the project planning module at

States eligible for UnitedHealth HEROES include:








District of Columbia















New Jersey

New Mexico

New York

North Carolina



Rhode Island

South Carolina






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

UnitedHealth Group ( is a diversified health and well-being company dedicated to making health care work better. Headquartered in Minneapolis, Minn., UnitedHealth Group offers a broad spectrum of products and services through six operating businesses: UnitedHealthcare, Ovations, AmeriChoice, OptumHealth, Ingenix, and Prescription Solutions. Through its family of businesses, UnitedHealth Group serves more than 70 million individuals nationwide.

SOURCE Youth Service America
Copyright©2009 PR Newswire.
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