March 6, 2018

Michigan elementary schools increasing academic achievement and decreasing obesity through the Building Healthy Communities program

During the last nine years, more than 260 elementary schools across Michigan have participated in the Building Healthy Communities: Engaging Elementary Schools Through Partnership program. These schools have undergone “Healthy School Transformations” in an effort to prevent and reduce childhood obesity, prevent chronic health conditions, and improve academic achievement. Schools have accomplished this by increasing opportunities to be physically active, eat healthier, and learn about health-enhancing nutrition and physical behaviors throughout the school day. 

The program is part of a partnership of statewide organizations, including Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the Michigan Fitness Foundation, United Dairy Industry of Michigan, and Wayne State University Center for Health and Community Impact. Gopher Sports and Food Corps have also supported the initiative. Led by the Wayne State University Center for Health and Community Impact, the program is composed of six components focusing on physical activity and nutrition: principal engagement, classroom education on healthy eating and physical activity, quality physical education, active recess, student leadership teams, and healthy kids clubs.

To date, research on the program has identified increases in student academic achievement and health improvements. Specifically, students at participating schools have shown increases in physical activity, improved eating habits, a decreased risk for obesity and other chronic conditions, and improved academic achievement in reading and math. 

“Wayne State University’s Center for Health and Community Impact is excited to work with partners across the state to share the goal of creating healthy school environments,” said Nate McCaughtry, Ph.D., center director and assistant dean of the Division of Kinesiology, Health and Sports Studies. “The long-term benefits of Building Healthy Communities — reduction in obesity, reduction in central adiposity, increased academic achievement among many others — cannot be overstated in terms of potential to improve overall health of Michigan children.” 

“Improving children’s health continues to be a principal focus for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and the outstanding partners of this program,” said Lynda Rossi, executive vice president of strategy, government and public affairs at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. “Together, we hope to see Building Healthy Communities continue changing the culture of health in Michigan schools by creating environments where it’s easy for students and teachers to develop and demonstrate healthy habits.”

“We are proud to be partnering with and supporting so many Michigan schools in creating a culture of health for students and teachers every school year,” said Nick Lyon, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. “Eating and physical activity patterns focused on making healthier, informed food choices and being physically active can help students attain and maintain a healthy weight, reduce their risk of chronic disease, promote overall health, and support academic achievement.”

Applications are being accepted for the Building Healthy Communities: Engaging Elementary Schools through Partnership program through April 13, 2018. To obtain more information or to apply, visit

About the College of Education

For more than a century, the Wayne State University College of Education has prepared effective urban educators who are reflective, innovative and committed to diversity. Its Teacher Education Division boasts one of the most comprehensive, well-established programs in the country, and all four academic divisions offer a range of undergraduate and graduate degrees in nearly 30 program areas, including learning design and technology, leadership and policy, kinesiology, sports administration, education evaluation and research, health education, educational psychology, and counseling. To learn more, visit   

About the Center for Community Health and Impact

The Center for Health and Community Impact, part of Wayne State University’s College of Education, conducts community-engaged research to transform physical activity and healthy eating in schools and community organizations to improve the health of young people and their families. For more on the Center for Health and Community Impact, visit

About Wayne State University 
Wayne State University, located in the heart of Detroit’s Midtown Cultural Center, is a premier urban research institution offering more than 350 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to more than 27,000 students. For more information, visit


Tracy Boyce
Phone: 313-577-0260

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