Why Healthier Students Have Principal, Lt. Governor Dancing

At a recent assembly, Ridge Park Charter Academy Principal Emory Wyckoff wasn’t afraid to show off his best celebratory dance moves in front of his middle school charges.

In fact, the Grand Rapids administrator hopes a new health and wellness program at the school will spark a healthy revolution with staff, students, and their parents.

Ridge Park is one of 117 Michigan schools recently awarded the Building Healthy Communities program, an evidence-based, comprehensive, school-wide initiative that supports children’s health. The program provides students, teachers and administrators with tools and resources to improve student health while creating a healthier school environment. It has reached over 180,000 students in more than 390 Michigan schools since its inception in 2009.

“Our goal is to make sure students are educated as well as nutritionally fit,” Wyckoff said. “Putting those two together, we are really honored to have Blue Cross partnering with us because at the end of the day, we want to make sure we are building the whole student.”

The Building Healthy Communities program has grown from an elementary-focused curriculum to include middle school and high school components, said Lynda Rossi, executive vice president, Strategy and Public Affairs for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. She said students involved in the program have increased their fruit and vegetable consumption by 40 percent, and have also shown increases in physical activity and improvements in academic success.

“We’re committed to improving our communities across the state. The health of our communities is as important as the infrastructure of our communities,” Rossi said.

The program is supported by multiple statewide organizations, including Blue Cross, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the Michigan Department of Education, the Michigan Fitness Foundation, University of Michigan, United Dairy Industry of Michigan, Wayne State University, Michigan State University Extension, Michigan Team Nutrition and Action for Healthy Kids, working together to teach kids healthy habits, address childhood obesity and transform the school environment.

Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley attended the assembly at Ridge Park and lauded the collaborative nature of the Building Healthy Communities program.

“We can do so much more through partnerships,” he said. “When we combine our efforts together to provide comprehensive solutions that connect our kids to those healthy habits early on, it will make a huge difference long-term both in our overall cost of the healthcare system, and especially in the quality of the life of our citizens.”

Healthy kids tend to be better students, said Nick Lyon, director of the Department of Health and Human Services, making the program doubly important.

“We know from studies that children who have physical activity and are eating healthy are much more inclined to learn better,” Lyon said.

Learn more about the Building Healthy Communities program at bcbsm.com/buildhealth. See pictures from the event below. 

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