A multi-ethnic group of kids are standing in a gymnasium. They are holding a basketball, volleyball, hockey stick, skipping rope, baseball bat, and soccer ball. They are smiling.

Building Healthy Communities Program Available to Meet the Health and Well-Being Needs of Michigan Students

DETROIT, May 12, 2021 — Michigan K-12 schools are invited to apply for Building Healthy Communities, a public-private initiative designed to address mental health and well-being and prevent childhood obesity through school-based wellness programming along with raising attention to issues that have emerged due to the pandemic. Building Healthy Communities (BHC) is an evidence-based, comprehensive, school-wide initiative that supports children’s health by providing students, teachers and administrators with tools and resources to improve the health of students and staff while creating a healthier school environment.

This past year, BHC programs were offered in virtual, hybrid and face-to-face formats to accommodate the way schools facilitated learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 340 schools have participated in the program impacting over 158,000 students in Michigan.

There are three programs available through Building Healthy Communities to help meet the needs of Michigan schools for the 2021-2022 school year, which include:

  • Building Healthy Communities: Reducing Health Disparities in Elementary Schools is focused on addressing the social determinants of health that have contributed to wide disparities in many communities across Michigan. Entire school districts have been invited to participate in the program to allow for a coordinated effort to facilitate sustainable, systemwide changes focused on healthy living opportunities, access to healthy food, safe places to be physically active, and education and policies throughout entire communities.
  • Building Healthy Communities: Engaging Middle Schools through Project Healthy Schools creates a culture of wellness enabling middle school students to increase physical activity, eat healthier, improve mental health, and understand how nutrition, activity and well-being influence their lifelong health and learning. The program includes social and emotional health for students, staff wellness, before and after-school programs, community outreach and engagement and an enhanced focus on diversity, equity and inclusion.
  • Building Healthy Communities: Step Up for School Wellness is flexible to meet the diverse needs of school buildings across the state. This program provides a menu of nutrition, physical activity and well-being resources that schools can choose from to make their school environment healthier and create a culture of wellness. New resources for the 2021-2022 program include School Food Pantry equipment for refrigeration to increase access to perishable, healthy food, TRAILS social and emotional learning curriculum and support which utilizes research-driven techniques grounded in cognitive behavioral theory and mindful practices.

Building Healthy Communities is paramount to children’s health and well-being across the state,” said Ken Hayward, vice president of Community Relations at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. “From childhood obesity prevention to increased access to nutritious foods, to improved academic performance and available resources specific to behavioral health, this program is making a difference directly in schools, directly to students. We are thankful for our partner network in continuing this initiative to build healthier communities for our young Michiganders.”

Launched in 2009, BHC is supported by multiple statewide organizations, including Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Michigan Department of Education, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principals Association (MEMSPA), Michigan Health Endowment Fund, Michigan Fitness Foundation, Michigan State University Extension, United Dairy Industry of Michigan, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University Center for Health and Community Impact.

“We’re thrilled to be a part of this statewide initiative to create ecosystems of health in Michigan schools. Building Healthy Communities programming will provide timely, critical support for thousands of children after a deeply challenging year,” said Becky Cienki, director of behavioral health at the Michigan Health Endowment Fund.

Paul Liabenow, executive director of MEMSPA, said, “MEMSPA is delighted to continue our partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield’s Step Up for Wellness Building Healthy Communities program for 2021-22. Over the past school year, we have seen remarkable results, hearing from numerous educators about BHC’s positive impact on staff and student wellness. With the addition of resources for the next program year, we hope to improve the quality of life for thousands more.”

“Good nutrition combined with physical activity is an important part of leading a healthy lifestyle, and preventing chronic conditions,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at MDHHS. “Schools play a critical role in modeling and supporting children to develop healthy habits. It is exciting to continue in this partnership to offer the resources schools need to continue their movement toward healthy and supportive school climates.”

“The Center for Health and Community Impact at Wayne State University has been privileged to play a key role in helping to facilitate a healthier and more successful Michigan for over a decade. This partnership has played a tremendous role in advancing health equity for countless children and families,” said Nate McCaughtry, director, Center for Health and Community Impact for Wayne State University.

“Studies have clearly shown that students who have healthier nutrition and more physical activity perform better in the classroom,” said Kim A. Eagle, MD, co-founder of Project Healthy Schools, Albion Walter Hewlett Professor of Internal Medicine Director, Frankel Cardiovascular Center. “They are establishing behaviors now that may last their lifetime. We want to help these children to be the most successful they can be, and we, at the University of Michigan, are committed to providing education and environmental change that is diverse and inclusive. We are grateful for our partnership with Building Healthy Communities as this collaboration makes it possible to offer a richer experience for our youth than any one of us could do alone.”

Diane L. Golzynski, director, Office of Health and Nutrition Services at the Michigan Department of Education, said, “The Building Healthy Communities program is an evidence-based program designed to directly address the metrics in our state Strategic Education Plan. The Michigan Department of Education is pleased to continue this great partnership on behalf of our students.”

Cortney Freeland, director of Youth Wellness Programs at the United Dairy Industry of Michigan, said, “United Dairy Industry of Michigan, on behalf of Michigan’s dairy farm families, is proud to support Building Healthy Communities. This partnership continues to provide creative solutions to addressing overall student health in the school environment. Michigan’s dairy farmers are proud to support these initiatives helping to provide access to nutrient-rich foods, including dairy.”

Participating schools will be provided with training, equipment, materials and other resources to implement and sustain environmental change, student activities and knowledge and skills-building that encourage healthy eating and physical activity and address mental health and well-being.

All public, charter and private nonprofit schools in the state are encouraged to review the full program description and eligibility information at www.bcbsm.com/buildhealth. Applications are currently being accepted for the Building Healthy Communities: Step Up for School Wellness Program and Building Healthy Communities: Engaging Middle Schools through Project Healthy Schools.

  • Building Healthy Communities: Step Up for School Wellness – Applications will be accepted through 5 p.m. on Sept. 30, 2021. Interested schools can register to join an informational webinar on Sept. 3, 2021 at 10:00 a.m. at arewehealthy.com.
  • Building Healthy Communities: Engaging Middle Schools through Project Healthy Schools – Applications will be accepted through 5 p.m. on May 31, 2021. Interested schools can register to join a webinar on May 18, 2021 from 3:30-4:00 pm at https://umich.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_2VXQl63dQCuIale_gCvgsA

Building Healthy Communities supports Blue Cross’ ongoing commitment to children’s health and its #MIKidsCan campaign – an initiative focused on encouraging kids to adopt healthy habits early in life that are more likely to be carried into adulthood. Since its inception, BHC has supported 450,000 students and 1,000 schools statewide. For more information on Blue Cross’ ongoing efforts to help improve childhood health, visit AHealthierMichigan.org/MIKidsCan.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit mutual insurance company, is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. BCBSM provides health benefits to more than 4.7 million members residing in Michigan in addition to employees of Michigan-headquartered companies residing outside the state. The company has been committed to delivering affordable health care products through a broad variety of plans for businesses, individuals and seniors for 80 years. Beyond health care coverage, BCBSM supports impactful community initiatives and provides leadership in improving health care. For more information, visit bcbsm.com and MiBluesPerspectives.com.