HEROES Unite!andnbsp;Youth Invited to Join the Movement to Fight Childhood Obesity

Young people across the country 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 offthe fourth year, Youth Service America and UnitedHealthcare arecalling all “Health Heroes” to apply for 2012 UnitedHealth HEROES grants.

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 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.

Applications must be submitted online before midnight, Oct. 17, 2011. Grant recipients will be notified in December and January.

“Childhood obesity is a serious health issue for young people, with more than 30 percent of our nation’s youth now overweight. The exciting thing is that youth have an amazing power to influence peers and initiate positive change. That’s why we are excited to offer these grants again this year,” said Kate Rubin, UnitedHealth Groupvice president of social responsibility. “We look forward to seeing the creative ideas young people come up with to help fight obesity and encourage healthier lifestyles.”

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.

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.

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(TM), 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.