The grant program supports youth-led projects, which include walking, running and hiking, to help fight childhood obesity.
Grants of up to $1,000 were awarded to youth-led, community-based programs across the country that included both an activity element, in which kids count their steps, and a service component that increases awareness or provides direct service around the issue of childhood obesity.
One of 194 grants which were awarded nationwide this year, Lynne Middleton’s project was to teach nutrition and the purpose of outdoor activities through hiking and other recreational pursuits.
Middle’s project will culminate on the 25th anniversary of Global Youth Service Day April 27.
Global Youth Service Day is the world’s largest service event, with youth-led service events taking place in all 50 states and more than 100 countries.
“Once again we were amazed by the creative ideas young people came up with to help fight obesity and encourage healthier lifestyles,” said Kate Rubin, vice president of social responsibility UnitedHealth Group
“By planning and participating in the UnitedHealth Heroes program, young people are working to ‘Step into Service,’ and give back to their communities, making a positive impact on the lives of everyone around them.
“UnitedHealth Heroes asks young people to step up to address an issue that directly affects them. The program is changing the way communities across the country think about the role of young people,” said Steven A. Culbertson, president and chief executive of YSA. “Kids can be leaders. Through United Health Heroes, they are teaching other kids — and grown-ups, too — about the value of healthy lifestyles.
Childhood obesity rates continue to rise dramatically. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 1 in 3 children is obese or overweight, putting them on the road to lifeline chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Healthy habits including physical activity can lower the risk of becoming obese and developing disease related to being overweight.
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, according to America’s Health Rankings, released by the UnitedHealth Foundation.