YMCA's Pioneering Healthier Communities

Dates of Project: January 2009 through December 2013

Field of Work: Policy and environmental change to address childhood obesity

Problem Synopsis: High rates of overweight and obesity among children threaten the health of the next generation of Americans. Policy and environmental changes designed to encourage physical activity and expand access to healthier foods can help reverse these trends.

Synopsis of the Work: In 2009 and 2010, the YMCA of the USA (Y-USA) teamed state alliances in six states with leaders in 32 communities to develop and implement state and local action plans that promote policy, systems and environmental changes to prevent childhood obesity.

Key Findings/Results

In a recent survey of leaders of four of the six statewide teams and the 32 local teams, the Y-USA found that the program has helped spur 2,705 policy and environmental changes to support healthy living. The Y-USA estimates that these changes affect as many as 2.3 million people. State and local grantees have also leveraged RWJF funding to raise $1,332,100 to help sustain their work.

Policy and environmental changes include:

  • Creating the Kentucky Healthier Highways Partnership and improving food choices at roadside rest stops across the state
  • Funding a pilot project in two school districts in Connecticut for a coordinated school health program that establishes goals and benchmarks for healthy eating and physical exercise during the school day
  • Limiting the liability of Tennessee schools that open their playgrounds and other facilities for community use
  • Implementing Michigan standards for physical activity and nutrition at the many early-childhood learning centers run by the YMCA, and helping other providers meet the standards