‘HEROES’ unite: Northern California youth invited to fight childhood obesity | SierraSun.com

‘HEROES’ unite: Northern California youth invited to fight childhood obesity

Special to the Sun

CONCORD, Calif. -Children and youth across Northern California 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. To obtain an application, visit http://www.YSA.org/HEROES. Applications must be submitted online before midnight, Oct. 17, 2011. Grant recipients will be notified in December and January. During the most recent grant cycle, UnitedHealthcare awarded $6,000 in grants to eight Northern California-based youth-led organizations. 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, UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) is taking the fight to Northern California and offering UnitedHealth HEROES grants to schools and youth-focused, community center-based programs. 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 also 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.In California, about 30.5 percent of children ages 10 to 17 are considered overweight or obese. Nationwide, one in three children is obese or overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 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. Obesity is connected to a variety of chronic conditions, including diabetes and heart disease. “With the UnitedHealth HEROES program, 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 Rosenthal, CEO, UnitedHealthcare Employer & Individual in Northern California. “We look forward to seeing the creative ideas young people come up with to help fight obesity and encourage healthier living.”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 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 American 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 more their communities to help reduce childhood obesity. A list of previous grant winners is available at http://www.ysa.org.

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