212 Michigan K-12 schools awarded Building Healthy Communities program to improve children’s health

Erica Stamatoulakis

| 6 min read

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DETROIT, Nov. 9, 2021 — More than 200 schools statewide were awarded the Building Healthy Communities (BHC) program, a public-private school-based initiative that supports children’s health by providing teachers, administrators and students the resources, curriculum, equipment and professional development to create healthier school environments, prevent childhood obesity, reduce chronic disease, improve academic achievement and address mental health and well-being. It is expected that the BHC program this school year will serve more than 91,000 students in Michigan. Michigan schools were invited to apply for one of three options through the program for the 2021-2022 school year. Building Healthy Communities offers multiple programs so schools can apply for the option that best meets their needs: Reducing Health Disparities in Elementary Schools (grades K-5), Engaging Middle Schools Through Project Healthy Schools (grades 6-8) and Step Up for School Wellness (grades K-12). Of the 212 participating schools, 78% are in low-income, under-resourced communities in areas of great need across the state. Providing resources in areas of greatest need increases both the opportunity to address disparities and positively impact marginalized groups. A new resource was made available to participating Step Up for School Wellness schools this year, Adolescent Suicide Prevention for Schools and Communities,” which will specifically address the growing issue of adolescent self-harm and suicide attempts in Michigan and is offered to staff, administrators and students in grades 5-12. 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, 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. “Over the past 13 years, the BHC program has made incredible strides in building healthier school environments for students in Michigan,” said Ken Hayward, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan vice president and special assistant to the president for Community Relations. “Impacting 469,000 students and 1,100 schools since the Building Healthy Communities program began is a milestone not only to celebrate but also an important benchmark for us in continuously improving the whole-person health and well-being of Michigan’s youth.” “It takes comprehensive efforts to give our children what they need to succeed in school and lead healthy lives,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, chief medical executive, MDHHS. “Schools play a critical role in modeling and support for 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.” “Providing our students, educators, and support staff with the tools to boost their social, emotional and physical health is essential as they push through the challenges of today’s world,” said State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice. “Healthy bodies and minds help make possible greater personal and academic outcomes.” "Building Healthy Communities continues to be a tremendous asset for Michigan schools as they find new ways to support the unique health needs of their students," said Becky Cienki, program director at the Michigan Health Endowment Fund. "Whether it's helping to develop skills for conflict resolution or a much-needed nutritious meal, this program is making a real difference for children facing challenging circumstances in our communities." "It is with great optimism that MEMSPA partners with the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and the Department of Health and Human Services to provide desperately needed resources to support student physical and mental health needs,” said Paul Liabenow, executive director of MEMSPA. “In its eighth year, Building Healthy Communities: Step Up for Wellness continues to serve hundreds of schools and thousands of students." “We are excited to once again partner with the Building Healthy Communities program,” said Cortney Freeland, director of Youth Wellness Programs at the United Dairy Industry of Michigan. “Supporting children’s health by ensuring they are fueled daily with the irreplaceable and essential nutrients that dairy provides is a top priority for us. Michigan dairy farmers are proud to be a part of this initiative.” "This year's Reducing Health Disparities in Elementary Schools allowed us to re-think our approach by not only adding additional features, such as Trauma Sensitive Schooling, but also by targeting our efforts throughout entire school districts in eight of the highest need communities in Michigan,” said Nate McCaughtry, director, Center for Health and Community Impact for Wayne State University. “The past few years have exacerbated many health and social disparities, and we are proud to play our part in helping to address them in meaningful and impactful ways alongside many like-minded partners." “Project Healthy Schools is looking forward to our continued partnership with Building Healthy Communities for the 2021-2022 school year in our new middle schools across the state,” said Kim A. Eagle, MD, co-founder of Project Healthy Schools, Albion Walter Hewlett Professor of Internal Medicine Director, Frankel Cardiovascular Center. “The success of BHC as a program is a testament to all the partners and organizations who continue to strive to create healthier school environments and improve health and academic outcomes for all Michigan students. This year, we are thrilled to be safely back inside school buildings where we can continue to engage with students, teachers, and staff through physical activity, nutrition, and social emotional knowledge and skill-based education.” 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 in 2009, BHC has supported 469,000 students and 1,100 schools statewide. For more information on Blue Cross’ ongoing efforts to help improve childhood health, visit or follow #MIKidsCan on Twitter. The schools receiving Building Healthy Communities programming for the 2021-2022 school year include: Building Healthy Communities: Reducing Health Disparities in Elementary Schools
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 Building Healthy Communities: Engaging Middle Schools through Project Healthy Schools
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Building Healthy Communities: Step Up for School Wellness
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# # # 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 more than 80 years. Beyond health care coverage, BCBSM supports impactful community initiatives and provides leadership in improving health care. For more information, visit and
MI Blues Perspectives is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association