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YMCA Initiative Fuels Community-Based Approach To Improve Healthy Lifestyles


18 Additional Communities to Become ’Healthy Pioneers of Change,’ Spreading Project to 64 Communities Across U.S.

WASHINGTON. -YMCA of the USA, the national resource office for the nation’s 2,663 YMCAs, today announced the expansion of the YMCA Activate America: Pioneering Healthier Communities® (PHC) initiative. Eighteen new communities will join those already engaged in PHC - a major component of the YMCA’s national effort to promote healthy living among millions of Americans. These communities are leading the way to form the foundation of an aggressive social movement to mobilize local leaders to respond to the public health challenges of obesity, physical inactivity and poor nutrition.

“The Pioneering Healthier Communities’ team-based based approach allows communities to provide a cohesive response to the lifestyle challenges facing our nation,” said Neil Nicoll, president and chief executive officer, YMCA of the USA. “By connecting the leaders who can affect change, communities are helping to make healthy behaviors an easier choice, not just the healthier choice. These improved opportunities for active living and healthy eating are laying a foundation to help reduce the risk of chronic diseases that have taken such a serious toll on Americans.”

“The high rates of chronic disease and obesity cannot be solved by a one-size fits all approach,” said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), honorary chair of the Pioneering Healthier Communities project. “The YMCA’s Pioneering Healthier Communities initiative lets each community decide how to best address the issue so that it results in maximum impact. By bringing together the people in each community who can really make things happen, there is a real chance for success in seeing positive results. I’m so pleased to see PHC continue to expand as it sees success in many of its communities.”

2007 Pioneering Healthier Communities

YMCAs in 18 communities across the country are convening local leaders this year to respond to public health challenges: San Francisco, CA, Colorado Springs, CO; Longmont, CO; Rockford, IL; North Attleboro, MA; Ann Arbor, MI; Battle Creek, MI; Itasca County, MN; Western North Carolina; Fargo, ND and Moorhead, MN; Omaha, NE; Woodbridge, NJ; New York, NY; Providence, RI; Chesterfield/Darlington/Hartsville, SC; La Crosse, WI; Marysville, WA; and Spokane, WA

Early Community Successes

Thirteen communities were announced to lead this project for the first year (2004). In 2005, 20 communities were initiated, and another 13 in 2006. Their ongoing efforts are focused on various local challenges ranging from devising ways to excite youth and older adults about physical activity, strengthening kids’ emotional well-being and improving school nutrition to enhancing the environment to allow for more opportunities for exercise and access to healthy foods, and influencing relevant public policy. Pioneering Healthier Communities teams are:

# Influencing policy makers to provide opportunities for kids to be physically active before, during and after the school day.
# Building new or enhancing existing walking/biking trails and sidewalks for residents to be active; and
# Providing opportunities for residents to purchase and consume fresh fruits and vegetables through community-gardens, farmers markets, and other activities.

What’s Next for the 2007 Pioneering Healthier Communities

Following the model of the 2004, 2005 and 2006 communities, YMCAs in these new 18 communities will compose a team consisting of 10 local leaders, including elected officials, state and local directors of public health organizations, business leaders from various industries, and leaders of local schools, parks and recreation departments and hospitals. These teams will convene at the YMCA Activate America: Pioneering Healthier Communities national conference Dec. 5-7 in Washington, D.C. This fourth-annual conference will focus on educating these community leaders about strategies and models for bringing about community solutions that have been replicated nationwide. At the conference, attendees learn about evidence-based approaches to affecting change from nationally known experts. In the past, experts have included Dr. Julie Gerberding, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Sally Squires of The Washington Post, author of “The Lean Plate Club;” Mark Fenton, contributing editor of Health magazine and a PBS TV series host; Melissa Johnson, executive director of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports; Tyler Norris, president of Community Initiatives; and Mary Pittman, president of the Health Research and Educational Trust of the American Hospital Association.

Pioneering Healthier Communities is funded through a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Since 2004, this critical initiative has also received generous support from Kellogg Company, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, and PepsiCo Foundation.

For more information about Pioneering Healthier Communities go to


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