Michigan Health Endowment Fund awards $1 million to WSU school health programs

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The Michigan Health Endowment Fund awarded $1 million to a pair of Wayne State University Center for Health and Community Impact (CHCI) programs that aim to boost the health and nutrition of school-aged children.

“Building Healthy Communities: Engaging Elementary Schools Through Partnership” and “Dearborn School Health through Integrated Nutrition & Exercise Strategies (D-SHINES),” both of which operate out of CHCI, each received $500,000 for their school-based programs that promote physical activity and healthy eating among students. The grants were part of the Health Fund’s 2019 Nutrition and Healthy Lifestyle initiative.

“Schools are an ideal place to meet kids where they are and help them form healthy habits, whether that means introducing nutritious foods in a fun, age-appropriate manner, or sharing the importance of physical activity,” said Laurie Solotorow, director of the Health Fund’s Nutrition and Healthy Lifestyles program. “Through school-based programs we can reach not only students but also their families, and family participation is critical to establishing a healthy lifestyle outside the classroom.”

Building Healthy Communities is a comprehensive school-based program that educates students through classroom lessons, opportunities for physical activity, and improves access to healthy food. The Health Fund grant will expand the program to more elementary schools in the state and enable a partnership with the University of Michigan, which implements a middle school level version of the program. The program also maintains partnerships with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Michigan Fitness Foundation, and the United Dairy Industry of Michigan.

“The Building Healthy Communities partnership is incredibly excited to receive funding from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund to support development of multiple digital and social media platforms to enhance the visibility of the program and better support elementary schools in implementing this healthy school transformation program across Michigan,” said Dr. Nate McCaughtry, director of CHCI. “The research and evaluation conducted by our Center on Building Healthy Communities suggests the program has important impact in the areas of obesity reduction, physical activity, healthy eating, educational performance, and quality of life for elementary school students.”

WSU professor Dr. Jeanne Barcelona and former WSU professor Erin Centeio worked in collaboration with Beaumont Health, University of Michigan Dearborn and ACCESS to develop the D-SHINES program which was launched in 2018 to provide health, nutrition and exercise education, and activities to school-age youth and their families in elementary and middle schools in the Dearborn Public Schools (DPS) district. The grant will expand the program’s reach to six additional DPS schools and the district’s early childhood center and will put an added emphasis on parent engagement.

“The Health Fund has made a substantial investment in the health of children, families, schools and surrounding Dearborn community through its funding of the D-SHINES program,” said Dr. Barcelona. “Through the Health Fund’s support, the D-SHINES program is able to encourage a culture of health that engages students and their families, early childhood through early adolescence, in relevant, meaningful and fun healthy eating and physical activities to combat obesity, nutrition-related health problems, and chronic diseases.”

Both program grants were part of the Health Fund’s Nutrition and Healthy Lifestyles program, which is committed to improving health outcomes by reducing the barriers to living a healthy life. This initiative supports programs that bring nutrition and physical activity into schools, create fresh food pipelines, and make healthy lifestyles more accessible to seniors, children, and their families.

For more information on the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, visit www.mihealthfund.org.

The Center for Health and Community Impact consists of educators, clinicians, practitioners, evaluators, researchers, and community leaders at Wayne State University who are committed to advancing health and social equity at local, regional, and national levels. The Center works alongside community partners to develop and lead culturally relevant, evidence-based, and sustainable programs that transform the healthy living opportunities for families, neighborhoods, and organizations. For more information on CHCI, visit http://coe.wayne.edu/centerforhealthandcommunityimpact

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