Monday, April 29, 2013

Moon Walk Challenge

As a healthcare executive, there are certainly many days when it feels as though the health problems facing our nation, from obesity to diabetes, are just too big to solve.

But then I hear that our programs that address health issues at the community level really are working, and I’m reminded that these small changes are what add up to big progress.

UnitedHealthcare awards micro – grants to community based organizations for programs that target childhood obesity as part of our childhood obesity initiative titled HEROES. As I am every year, I was impressed to see the creativity of the 2013 grant awardees programs, and couldn’t wait to see how they were implemented. One program that really caught my eye was in the Pittsburgh area, the Allegheny Valley YMCA’s Moon Walk Challenge.

The program tied together space education and physical activity. Children of all ages involved in the Y’s before and after school programs participated in fun activities about space, and ran or walked together every day before or after school, with the goal of walking the equivalent of the moon’s diameter over the course of the project, a distance of 2,160 miles.

When we checked in with the Allegheny Valley YMCA, they said that things didn’t go quite as planned. Instead of walking the diameter of the moon, students wanted to challenge themselves even further by setting the new goal to the circumference of the moon, an approximate distance of 6,784 miles.

Children at Allegheny Valley YMCA, logging their miles.

The YMCA used their grant money to purchase pedometers for the kids so they could keep track of how much they moved every day. Kids were excited to not only use them in their group walks, but keep track of their steps at baseball practice, walking to the bus stop, or even around their home.

Hearing kids say “let’s challenge ourselves to move even more!” is music to my ears, and I think we can safely say that it’s an indicator of the program’s success. Indeed, the YMCA reported that many of the kids saw their fitness levels improve significantly.

The Allegheny Valley YMCA’s Moon Walk Challenge is just one example of how organizations across the country have put HEROES grants to good use to really make a difference in kids’ education and attitudes about health and physical activity. Congratulations to all of our HEROES grant winners, and I hope to keep hearing more stories about the success of these programs!

E.J. Heckert, vice president, UnitedHealthcare, Western Pennsylvania and UnitedHealthcare volunteers presented the HEROES grant check to Allegheny Valley YMCA program coordinators

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