Calling All "HEROES": Youth Invited to Join the Movement to Fight Childhood Obesity

Published August 03, 2010

  • “UnitedHealth HEROES” grants support local programs that engage children as learners and leaders of healthy habits
  • Community-focused, service-learning initiative by UnitedHealth Group and Youth Service America expanded to all 50 states and the District of Columbia

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

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 nationwide and offering UnitedHealth HEROES grants to schools and youth-focused, community center-based programs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

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 skills.

To obtain an application, visit The website also contains more information about the program as well as “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 in their communities.

Applications must be submitted online before midnight, Oct. 22, 2010. Grant recipients will be notified in December and January.

“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 Jeannine Rivet, UnitedHealth Group executive vice president. “We look forward to seeing the creative ideas young people come up with to help fight obesity and encourage healthier living.”

UnitedHealth Group is partnering with Youth Service America (YSA) to launch the third 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 one of the greatest health issues facing children and youth in the U.S.,” said Steve Culbertson, YSA president and CEO. “UnitedHealth HEROES provides young people with the important responsibility of seeking solutions to this epidemic, and I’m thrilled to see the innovative ideas used to educate and engage their peers.”

To date, UnitedHealth Group has awarded 361 HEROES grants to schools and community organizations across the country. Earlier this year, more than 20,000 children and youth logged over 436,000 volunteer hours serving more than 100,000 people in their communities to help reduce childhood obesity. A list of previous grant winners is available at

UnitedHealth HEROES grant recipients will have the opportunity to showcase their projects on YSA’s 22nd Annual Global Youth Service Day (GYSD), April 15-17, 2011. 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.

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. 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.

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

About UnitedHealth Group
UnitedHealth Group ( 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 more than 75 million people worldwide.