January 18, 2013 at 08:30 AM EST
More Than $175,000 in Grants Awarded as UnitedHealth HEROES "Step into Service" to Fight Childhood Obesity

UnitedHealthcare is awarding nearly 200 UnitedHealth HEROES grants to help kids develop programs that will motivate their peers to “Step into Service.” Awarded to schools and community-based nonprofit organizations nationwide, UnitedHealth HEROES grants will fund youth-led projects, which include walking, running and hiking, to help fight childhood obesity.

Grants of up to $1,000 each were awarded to youth-led programs that include both an activity element in which kids count their steps and a service component that increases awareness or provides direct service around the issue of childhood obesity. An example of a program that has been awarded a grant is ‘Cache’ the Spirit of Health, a project in Lombard, Ill., in which students will count their steps along trails while searching for geocached treasures. Each of the 100 students has set a goal of walking 50 miles during the course of their project.

HEROES activities will begin on Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service (Jan. 21, 2013) and end on Global Youth Service Day (April 26-28, 2013).

UnitedHealth HEROES is a wellness initiative designed to encourage young people, working with educators and youth leaders, to create and implement walking, running or hiking programs aimed at helping fight childhood obesity. A complete list of grant winners is available online at www.ysa.org/HEROES.

“Once again this year we were amazed by the creative ideas young people came up with to help fight obesity and encourage healthier lifestyles,” said Kate Rubin, vice president of social responsibility, UnitedHealth Group. “By planning, and then participating in the UnitedHealth HEROES program, young people are working to ‘Step into Service’ and give back to their communities, making a positive impact on the lives of everyone around them.”

Childhood obesity rates continue to rise dramatically. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three children is obese or overweight, putting them on the road to lifelong chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Healthy habits, including physical activity, can lower the risk of becoming obese and developing diseases related to being overweight.

If left unchecked or untreated, obesity will affect 43 percent of adults by 2018 and will add nearly $344 billion in that year alone to the nation’s annual direct health care costs, accounting for more than 21 percent of health care spending, according to America’s Health Rankings®, released by United Health Foundation.

UnitedHealthcare partnered with YSA (Youth Service America) to launch the fifth year of the UnitedHealth HEROES program. During the first four years of the program, nearly 1,000 UnitedHealth HEROES grants, totaling almost $500,000, have been awarded to groups across the country.

“UnitedHealth HEROES asks young people to ‘step up’ to address an issue that directly affects them. The program is changing the way communities across the country think about the role of young people,” said Steven A. Culbertson, president and CEO of YSA. “Kids can be leaders, and through UnitedHealth HEROES, they are teaching other kids – and grown-ups, too – about the value of healthy lifestyles.”

About YSA (Youth Service America)

Celebrating 25 years of youth changing the world, YSA (Youth Service America) improves communities by increasing the number and diversity of young people serving in substantive roles. Through campaigns such as Global Youth Service Day and Semester of Service; YSA Grants and awards programs; and resources and training opportunities, YSA activates millions of young people each year. Working with—and on behalf of—youth, adult mentors, organizations and schools, YSA promotes a global culture of engaged youth committed to a lifetime of community action, learning, leadership, and achievement.

About UnitedHealthcare

UnitedHealthcare is dedicated to helping people nationwide live healthier lives by simplifying the health care experience, meeting consumer health and wellness needs, and sustaining trusted relationships with care providers. The company offers the full spectrum of health benefit programs for individuals, employers and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and contracts directly with more than 650,000 physicians and care professionals and 5,000 hospitals nationwide. UnitedHealthcare serves more than 38 million people and is one of the businesses of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), a diversified Fortune 50 health and well-being company.

Contacts:

UnitedHealth Group
Courtney Johnson, 952-936-7474
Courtney_T_Johnson@uhg.com
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