Florida YMCAs receive grant to battle childhood obesity

Florida's YMCA have been selected to participate in the Y's Statewide Pioneering Healthier Communities -– an initiative aimed at addressing the childhood obesity epidemic through policy, systems and environmental change.

The Florida Alliance of YMCAs is one of 14 to receive funds from YMCA of the USA, which was recently awarded nearly $7.9 million from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to expand its initiative from six states to a total of 21 states -- focusing on states with high rates of childhood obesity.

As of 2010, 16.9 percent of our nation's children and adolescents ages 2 to 19 years old were obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. In Florida, the rate has climbed over the last five years and is 11.5 percent.

Launched in 2009, the initiative convenes state and community leaders to work together to implement strategies that support healthy living.

"The Y and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation have a mutual commitment to ensuring our nation's children grow to be healthy, happy and strong," said YMCA of the USA president and CEO Neil Nicoll. "Our work together over the past three years has resulted in community and state-level changes that will help children and their families live healthier lives for years to come. We are grateful to be able to continue this important relationship."

Within 37 communities in six states, the Y's program advanced more than 2,300 strategies and changes to tackle this growing health crisis. To date, these strategies and changes have impacted up to 2.3 million lives.

These communities have implemented strategies that include helping families put healthier food on the table by bringing fresh fruits and vegetables to neighborhoods where there are few healthy food options; giving parents peace of mind by making safe walking routes to schools; helping to keep a generation of kids healthier by working with schools to increase physical education and physical activity during the school day or by working with after-school programs to provide additional opportunities outside the school day for physical activity.

Learn more about the Y's Healthier Communities Initiatives visit YMCA.net/healthier-communities.

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