Thousands of Young "HEROES" have Volunteered with UnitedHealth Group to Fight Childhood Obesity

  • More than 20,000 youth volunteers have given 436,000 hours serving over 100,000 people in their communities to help reduce childhood obesity
  • Participants cite effectiveness of UnitedHealth HEROES grants in helping their communities adopt healthier behaviors
MINNETONKA, Minn. — 

Thousands of youth volunteers across the country are making a difference in the fight against childhood obesity.

UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) and Youth Service America launched the UnitedHealth HEROES campaign in 2008.  This year alone, more than 20,000 youths have logged over 436,000 volunteer hours serving more than 100,000 people in their communities to help reduce childhood obesity.

The UnitedHealth HEROES program is a service-learning, health literacy initiative developed by UnitedHealth Group and Youth Service America.  The program awards grants of up to $1,000 to help young people create and implement local, hands-on programs to fight childhood obesity.  Each grant also engages participating youth in service-learning, an effective teaching and learning strategy that supports student learning, academic achievement and workplace readiness.

To date, UnitedHealth Group has awarded 361 grants to schools and youth-focused, community-based organizations in 35 states and the District of Columbia.  A list of grant winners is available online at www.ysa.org.

“UnitedHealth HEROES grants empower young people to collaborate with teachers and community leaders to make their schools and neighborhoods healthier,” said Jeannine Rivet, UnitedHealth Group executive vice president.  “Across the nation, UnitedHealth HEROES are improving health and quality of life in their own communities.  As people become more aware of health issues through health literacy and advocacy initiatives, they will make positive changes to live better lives.”

UnitedHealth Group and Youth Service America gauge the success of UnitedHealth HEROES programs via post-project reports submitted by grant winners.  Among the findings, more than 99 percent of respondents agreed that UnitedHealth HEROES projects improved students’ knowledge and awareness of childhood obesity; helped students adopt healthier behaviors to reduce the risk of childhood obesity; and increased students’ interest in learning.

In addition, nearly 98 percent of respondents agreed that their UnitedHealth HEROES projects helped improve overall health and well-being and reduce the risk of childhood obesity in their communities, and enhanced student participants’ work force, civic engagement and citizenship skills.

“The response we have received has been overwhelmingly positive.  It clearly shows that young people want to learn more about health issues that affect them and take action to improve their communities’ well-being,” Rivet added.  “The UnitedHealth HEROES program has inspired youths to design and implement projects that engage not only their peers, but their families and entire communities in addressing the greatest health issue facing their generation.”

For example, in Scotts Valley, Calif., a UnitedHealth HEROES grant enabled students to create and organize a four-month-long “Walk Across America” to encourage physical fitness.  The project was developed as an activity that could be extended to the city’s entire population of about 11,000, and included strategies to help raise awareness of obesity in the community.

Testimonials of young participants further reflect the impact UnitedHealth HEROES have made in their communities.

Adonis, a student in Bristol, Tenn., said: “We set up a booth at the YMCA’s Healthy Kids Day to talk about obesity and to show how to do the different physical fitness challenges.  There were over 1,200 people that came that day, so we really got the word out to the community.  I know that I need to be a role model to my friends to help them live a healthy life.”

“The success of the UnitedHealth HEROES program reinforces Youth Service America and UnitedHealth Group's shared commitment to improve our nation's health, education and youth leadership,” said Steve Culbertson, president and CEO of Youth Service America.  “Young people want to make a difference, and UnitedHealth HEROES offers them the resources to make a positive, measurable impact on their communities.”

According to 2008 data from the Centers for Disease Control, one in three children is obese or overweight, putting them on the road to lifelong chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease.  Also, according to the 2009 America’s Health Rankings™, 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.

About Youth Service America
Youth Service America (YSA) improves communities by increasing the number and the diversity of young people, ages 5-25, serving in substantive roles.  Founded in 1986, YSA supports a global culture of engaged youth committed to a lifetime of service, learning, leadership and achievement.  The impact of YSA’s work through service and service-learning is measured in student achievement, workplace readiness and healthy communities.  For more information, visit www.YSA.org.

About UnitedHealth Group
UnitedHealth Group (www.unitedhealthgroup.com) is a diversified health and well-being company dedicated to helping people live healthier lives and making health care work better.  With headquarters in Minnetonka, Minn., UnitedHealth Group offers a broad spectrum of health benefit programs through UnitedHealthcare, Ovations and AmeriChoice, and health services through Ingenix, OptumHealth and Prescription Solutions.  Through its family of businesses, UnitedHealth Group serves 75 million people worldwide. 

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Thousands of Young "HEROES" have Volunteered with UnitedHealth Group to Fight Childhood Obesity