Marshall Middle School announced today that it was chosen by the University of Michigan Health System and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan to be a part of Project Healthy Schools (PHS), a program to fight obesity and promote healthy choices.
“We are grateful to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and the University of Michigan for their generosity in helping Marshall Middle School tackle this serious health challenge,” Principal Dave Turner said. “Health problems due to poor nutrition and a sedentary lifestyle can be prevented, and thanks to this project, we can make staying fit and healthy fun for our students.”
Marshall sixth-grade students will receive ten PHS lessons in their health class that are designed to be interactive, educational and motivational for students. The program also includes collaboration with the cafeteria, communication with parents and staff, development of a school wellness team, measurement of program success, and organization of a fun year-end activity to celebrate the program.
While Project Healthy Schools targets sixth-graders through direct classroom instruction, the entire student body benefits from the program by teaching healthy habits, developing healthy school environments, and creating an infrastructure that sustains the program. The strategies can help reduce students’ future risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) was on hand to congratulate the school and the students for taking on this initiative. “When I first learned about similar programs that Blue Cross and the University of Michigan were running across the state to help fight childhood obesity, I wanted Marshall children to have the opportunity to benefit from them. I am thrilled that these students will be armed with the tools needed to help them make healthy choices that will impact their quality of life. There are academic rewards as well, with studies showing that kids who are physically active and eat healthy foods do better in school.”
“Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is committed to helping students establish healthy habits during this critical life stage, as they transition from childhood to adolescence, and that’s exactly what this project does,” said Shannon Carney Oleksyk, Senior Health Care Analyst at BCBSM. “By promoting healthier lifestyles through physical activity and healthy eating, we can help children improve their health, minimize the risk of diseases, and ultimately, reduce health care costs. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is proud to work with schools, parents and students to lead Michigan to a healthier future.”
In Michigan, 30.6 percent of youth ages 10 to 17 are overweight or obese, according to the National Survey of Children’s Health. More than 80 percent of Michigan youth in grades 9 through 12 eat fruits and vegetables less than five times per day, according to 2009 data of the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Michigan’s annual obesity expenditures total nearly $3 billion, with 70 percent of medical expenses directly related to this epidemic.
The second leading cause of death in the United States, obesity sets the stage for a host of potential health problems, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, some types of cancer, kidney disease, osteoarthritis and depression.
The University of Michigan’s Project Healthy Schools’ fun, hands-on activities incorporate five simple goals:
- Eat more fruits and vegetables
- Make better beverage choices
- Perform at least 150 minutes of exercise each week
- Eat less fast and fatty foods
- Spend less time in front of a screen
More than 13,000 middle school students and their teachers have participated in Project Healthy Schools, which is one of the few programs of its kind to demonstrate significant benefits among participants, including reductions in cholesterol and high blood pressure. Marshall will be the 26th school to partner with PHS.
“Increasing physical activity, reducing recreational screen time and improving the nutritional value of school lunches offers great promise to begin a reversal of current childhood obesity trends," says U-M cardiologist Kim Eagle, M.D., a director of the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center and co-founder of Project Healthy Schools. “By reaching these goals we can make health improvements, not just of the children who are obese, but for all children.”