Michigan moving to settle unemployment false fraud lawsuit, setting aside $20M

Anti-obesity initiative expanded for Michigan school children

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Madison Heights — An anti-child obesity program, backed by the state, Blue Cross Blue Shield Michigan, Wayne State University and the University of Michigan, is expanding the number of elementary and middle schools participating in it.

Officials from the Michigan Department of Community Health, the health insurance company and the universities were joined by Gov. Rick Snyder to make the announcement Friday during a news conference at Edison Elementary School in Madison Heights.

And they were joined in the school gym by 220 Edison Elementary students from the third, fourth and fifth grades.

Officials said the program has added 58 elementary and middle schools — including Edison Elementary — across Michigan to the program for the 2014-15 school year. Last year, the program added 28 schools as to date has about 100 schools in it, they also said.

“Lifelong healthy habits start at a young age,” said Lynda Rossi, executive vice president of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. “A healthier Michigan is a driving mission of our company, and we are excited about the expanded opportunities that our new partnership brings in impacting positive change for students across the state.”

Snyder praised the effort. Snyder is running for re-election against Mark Schauer, a former state legislator and congressman from Battle Creek.

“We’ve got an obesity problem in Michigan with children and adults,” he said. “We really want to encourage healthier behavior because it pays off for all of us.”

The program, called “Building Healthy Communities,” was started by Blue Cross Blue Shield in 2009. It aims to get children to eat more fruits and vegetables, choose fewer sugary foods and drinks, eat fewer fast and fatty foods, be more physically active and spend less time in front of TV and computer screens.

It has grown into a public-private partnership between the health insurer, the state Department of Community Health, WSU, U-M, the Michigan Fitness Foundation and the United Dairy Industry of Michigan.

Schools in the program receive a hands-on coordinator to establish the program and educational materials. Some eligible schools also get grants for gym class equipment. In addition, more than 30 schools will receive a grant to provide students with breakfast in their classrooms.

Alison Black, 42, of Madison Heights, said she supports the program.

“I’m a nurse and I’ve seen what obesity is doing to young people,” said Black, whose stepdaughter is a fifth grader at Edison Elementary. “It’s a huge program and I think it’s a great idea to teach kids to make healthier choices when they’re young.”

cramirez@detroitnews.com