Wednesday, February 17, 2010

My Health HEROES brag list. It’s long but that’s a good thing.

As I let everyone know the other day, UnitedHealth Group has just announced that 24 groups in Pennsylvania are winners of 2010 UnitedHealth HEROES grants. HEROES grants are awarded to student and youth organizations for developing programs that get friends, classmates and community members moving toward a healthier lifestyle.

So many youth organizations across the state proposed thoughtful, creative programs that we awarded more grants in Pennsylvania than we originally planned, 24 in all.

I want to do a little bragging now and tell you a little bit about all of this year’s winning projects. Whether you read a sampling of these projects or plow through the entire list, I think you’ll share my sense of pride in the youth of Pennsylvania. There are truly some innovative programs on the list, all of which propose creative ideas for fighting childhood obesity that can be easily implemented in their schools and communities.

Here goes:
• Sixth Grade students at Abraham Lincoln Elementary School in Levittown, who will photograph “unhealthy signals” in their community such as fast food restaurants and the placement of junk food in grocery store aisles for a display and presentation to local parents, school boards and legislators.

• High school students from the Agatston Urban Nutrition Initiative (AUNI) Youthworks Program in Philadelphia who will transform an abandoned plot of land into a community orchard and amphitheater that will provide a common green space and public source of fresh fruits and vegetables.

• Students in Alvernia University's Wellness Core Physical Education 304 class in Reading, who will study the factors that contribute to obesity and organize a health fair and field day to promote healthy lifestyles for children in their community.

Lawrence County Social Services, Inc. in Newcastle, which will help students enrolled in the local VOTECH high school become wellness mentors to low-income preschoolers, develop a newsletter and design programs to encourage parent involvement.

The Urban Nutrition Initiative Philadelphia, which will purchase mortars and pestles for middle school students to explore different herbs and spices and learn about healthy methods to enhance the taste and aroma of food.

Camp Fire USA Adahi Council Mohnton, which will help students in Southeastern Pennsylvania educate their community about healthy lifestyles through informational flyers, newsletter articles, exhibits and demonstrations.

• Students in grades 3-5 at Claysville Elementary School, who will create a “Healthy Living” informational DVD focused on the three main areas of “Healthy Snacks,” “Healthy Habits,” and “Healthy Activities” and distribute it to classmates, community members and local media outlets.

YMCA of York County, which will host two programs, “Look Who’s Cooking” and “Teen Iron Chef,” to teach elementary and middle school students about how to prepare healthy meals.

• Middle school students at El Centro in Gettysburg, who will start a program to educate younger children on healthy lifestyles that includes several projects, such nutritional programs with computerized tracking, Zumba classes, a healthy cookbook and an activity day.

• Students at the Wayne County YMCA who will work together to compile a book of recipes and group games that promote a healthy lifestyle.

Connoquenessing Valley Elementary School students in Seneca Valley, who will start a youth mentoring program to encourage healthy habits, respectful relationships and caring hearts.

The Boys and Girls Club of Easton, which will hold after-school events for low-income youth, ages 5-19 featuring healthy snacks, physical activities, guest lecturers and opportunities to join dance and fitness classes.

The Elise Joseph Foundation in Philadelphia and the Christian Fellowship Center of Philadelphia, which will partner with Taylor’s Wholesome Foods Workshop, L.L.C. and the Haitian community to start a hands-on nutritional cooking class.

The Pennsylvania Migrant Education Program for children of migrant workers in Downingtown, which will provide obesity prevention and proper nutrition workshops for students in a Saturday education series culminating in a field trip to the BODIE WORLDS 2 exhibit where students will learn about the effects of obesity and disease on human organs.

Woodland Hills Junior High in Pittsburgh, where a group of obese teenage girls will learn about making healthy choices and incorporating a fun activity into their daily routine by participating in a dance class and, after learning various popular dances, organize and instruct their own exercise class at a community center.

The Mon Valley YMCA in Monongahela, which will host weekly meetings for volunteer members to discuss how to inspire local kids to lead healthy lives, connect with community leaders, incorporate physical fitness activities and culminate in a community-wide Healthy Kids Day event.

The Allegheny Valley YMCA in Natrona Heights, which will start a “Youth Strength Training” program to help young people struggling to overcome inactivity through a mentor exercise program that features a circuit of weightlifting, body sculpting, cardiovascular exercise and nutritional classes.

PartnerSHIP For a Healthy Community in Erie, which will partner with a local martial arts/fitness studio to offer rigorous exercise classes to students two days a week along with personal exercise and nutritional charts to help keep track of progress.

The Brookville YMCA, which will host a special triathlon for kids ages 5-15 in April 2010 after a series of training sessions at the YMCA to help youth participants prepare for the race.

The Child Health Project at the Drexel University School of Public Health in Philadelphia, which will develop a program that address wellness, safe physical activity and healthy eating while respecting children’s and families' cultural values and traditions.

Philadelphia Youth Action, Inc., which will implement the "Healthy Choice/Healthy You" project to engage students age 8 – 18 in identifying the factors that contribute to childhood obesity and provide the resources they need to learn about healthy eating choices.

• Students in the “SMT Reaches for Wellness” project at St. Martin of Tours School in Philadelphia who will plan and lead demonstrations and activities at various school-wide events, including a Dance-a-thon, Family Soup Night and a community Health and Wellness Day Fair.

• Students on the Holy Trinity High Flyers Jump Rope Team in Ligonier, who will show their friends, classmates and parents how to jump rope and have fun while exercising in a demonstration at the local YMCA.

The City of York, which will host a three-part nutritional series for local children in which a nutritionist will lead discussions about the participants’ favorite foods, demonstrate how to incorporate them into healthy meals and compile the recipes into a healthy eating cookbook.

If you want to find out more about the Health HEROES program, visit

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