Ten Michigan-based, Native American tribal teams log more than 92,000 miles of physical activity as part of an eight-week fitness competition
DETROIT, July 22, 2016 — Over the past eight weeks, ten of Michigan’s federally-recognized tribal communities and Native American support organizations competed in Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s fifth-annual Tribe to Tribe Blues Community Challenge to determine which team could log the most miles of physical activity. Teams completing the challenge received grants from Blue Cross to support health and wellness programs in their communities. As part of the program, 79 children completed the second-annual #MIKidsCan Tribe to Tribe Youth Marathon, which encourages participating tribal community youth to track 25.2 miles of physical activity over the same eight-week period. The number of participants almost doubled from last year’s competition. Competing kids could finish the last mile (to reach the 26.2 miles required for a marathon) on their own or at the one-mile run at the Michigan Indian Family Olympics, an Olympic-style event for Native American families sponsored by Blue Cross. To fulfill the requirements of the competition, members of each team logged their daily physical activity through the Blue Cross WalkingWorks online tracking tool, with the goal of being the team whose members had the highest total miles achieved. This year, almost 600 tribal members registered for the challenge. At the end of the challenge, more than 92,500 miles were logged by the participants, the equivalent of 3,534 completed marathons. “It’s no secret that we’re more likely to exercise if we have support,” said Shelley DuFort, senior community liaison for Blue Cross. “Community challenges, like the Tribe to Tribe Blues Community Challenge, are a fun way to address the serious problem of health disparities in Michigan. It’s amazing to watch members of tribal communities come together, rallying around their common goal of living a healthier lifestyle.” The celebration and announcement ceremony for the Tribe to Tribe Blues Community Challenge winners was held at the 29th annual Michigan Indian Family Olympics on July 22 in Mt. Pleasant. The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Community (Mt. Pleasant) logged the highest number of miles of physical activity among all teams and was declared the winning tribe for the second year in a row. The tribe is using their winnings to build a fitness park in their community. Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians (Harbor Springs) and Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi (Fulton) placed second and third, respectively, in the competition. The total grant funding offered for the program was $13,500. Each tribe completing the challenge received a portion of that amount according to their ranking, ranging from $500-$3,000. Additional participating tribes included (in order of their final standing): American Indian Health and Family Services (Detroit Native American service and support agency), Gun Lake Tribe (Shelbyville), Bay Mills Indian Community (Brimley), Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (Baraga), Hannahville Indian Community (Wilson), Pokagon Band of Potawatomi (Dowagiac) and the Little River Band (Manistee). According to the Native American Research Centers for Health (NARCH), Native American populations have higher incidences of cardiovascular disease, obesity, respiratory issues, HIV/AIDS, mental health concerns and substance abuse than the general population. The Tribe to Tribe Blues Community Challenge program began in 2012 with the goal of increasing physical activity among Michigan’s tribal communities, improving overall health status and decreasing health risks associated with obesity and inactivity. The program is as an extension of Blue Cross’ ongoing commitment to reducing health disparities in diverse communities. 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 and administers health benefits to more than 4.5 million members residing in Michigan in addition to employees of Michigan-headquartered companies who reside outside the state. For more company information, visit bcbsm.com and MiBluesPerspectives.com.