Grants available to fight obesity

Children and youth across Colorado once again have
the opportunity to become “Health Heroes” by learning about
childhood obesity, designing programs to address it and
implementing the programs in their communities.


Kicking off the fourth year, Youth Service America
and UnitedHealthcare are calling all “Health Heroes” to apply for
2012 UnitedHealth HEROES grants. To obtain an application, visit
Applications must be submitted online before midnight, Oct. 17. 
Grant recipients will be notified in December and


During the most recent grant cycle, UnitedHealthcare
awarded $2,000 in grants to four Colorado-based youth-led


UnitedHealth HEROES is a service-learning, health
literacy initiative designed to encourage young people, working
with educators and youth leaders, to create and implement local
hands-on programs to fight childhood obesity.  As childhood obesity
rates are increasing, according to the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention, UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) is taking the fight
to Colorado and offering UnitedHealth HEROES grants to schools and
youth-focused, community center-based programs.


Grants of up to $1,000 will be awarded to programs
that demonstrate a clear understanding of the health risks
associated with childhood obesity; propose creative solutions to
fighting obesity in their schools and communities; and can be
easily implemented, scaled and measured.  In addition, each grant
also engages participating youth in service-learning, an effective
teaching and learning strategy that supports student academic
achievement, and helps students develop their workplace readiness


In Colorado, about 27.2 percent of children ages 10
to 17 are considered overweight or obese. Nationwide, one in three
children is obese or overweight, according to the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention.


If left unchecked or untreated, obesity will affect
43 percent of adults by 2018, according to the 2009 America’s
Health Rankings™, 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. Obesity is
connected to a variety of chronic conditions, including diabetes
and heart disease.


“With the UnitedHealth HEROES program, we are
helping young people take action to improve their overall health
and quality of life in a way that’s not only educational, but
beneficial for their communities.  We believe that as people become
more aware of health issues through health literacy and advocacy
initiatives they will make positive changes to live better lives,”
said Beth Soberg, CEO, UnitedHealthcare Employer Individual
in Colorado.  “We look forward to seeing the creative ideas young
people come up with to help fight obesity and encourage healthier


UnitedHealth Group is partnering with Youth Service
America (YSA) to launch the fourth year of the UnitedHealth HEROES
program.  Research by Denver-based RMC Research Corp. has shown
that young people who participate in service-learning programs
improve their academic performance and critical-thinking skills,
increase their confidence and sense of potential, and accept
leadership roles. 


“Childhood obesity is a growing problem in American
and links to long-term health issues, which can be alleviated by
drawing awareness of and starting healthy habits at a young age,”
said Steve Culbertson, President and CEO of Youth Service
America. “Youth Service America is proud to partner with
UnitedHealthcare and mobilize children and youth to create,
implement and solve childhood obesity.”


To date, UnitedHealthcare has awarded nearly 700
HEROES grants to schools and community organizations across the
country. Earlier this year, more than 20,000 children and youth
logged volunteer hours serving more their communities to help
reduce childhood obesity. A list of previous grant winners is
available at


The website also contains information about the
program and “First Responders: Youth Addressing Childhood Obesity
Through Service-Leaning,” a step-by-step manual that helps youth,
parents, teachers and other volunteers deploy YSA service-learning
models to fight childhood obesity. 


UnitedHealth HEROES grant recipients will have the
opportunity to showcase their projects on YSA’s 24th Annual Global
Youth Service Day (GYSD), April 20-22, 2012. GYSD provides an
opportunity for students to include their projects in a larger,
global youth service movement that seeks to improve communities in
all 50 states and more than 100 countries.