Building Healthy Communities Program

— Michigan K-12 schools are invited to apply for Building Healthy
Communities, a public-private initiative designed to address mental health and well-being and prevent
childhood obesity through school-based wellness programming along with raising attention to issues that have
emerged due to the pandemic.
This past year, BHC  offered in virtual, hybrid and face-to-face programs to accommodate
the way schools facilitated learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 340 schools have participated
in the program impacting over 158,000 students in Michigan.
There are three programs available through Building Healthy Communities to help meet the needs of
Michigan schools for the 2021-2022 school year, which include:
• Building Healthy Communities: Reducing Health Disparities in Elementary Schools is focused on
addressing the social determinants of health that have contributed to wide disparities in many
communities across Michigan. Entire school districts have been invited to participate in the
program to allow for a coordinated effort to facilitate sustainable, systemwide changes
focused on healthy living opportunities, access to healthy food, safe places to be physically
active, and education and policies throughout entire communities.
• Building Healthy Communities: Engaging Middle Schools through Project Healthy Schools
creates a culture of wellness enabling middle school students to increase physical activity, eat
healthier, improve mental health, and understand how nutrition, activity and well-being
influence their lifelong health and learning. The program includes social and emotional health
for students, staff wellness, before and after-school programs, community outreach and
engagement and an enhanced focus on diversity, equity and inclusion.
• Building Healthy Communities: Step Up for School Wellness is flexible to meet the diverse
needs of school buildings across the state. This program provides a menu of nutrition, physical
activity and well-being resources that schools can choose from to make their school
environment healthier and create a culture of wellness. New resources for the 2021-2022 program include School Food Pantry equipment for refrigeration to increase access to
perishable, healthy food, TRAILS social and emotional learning curriculum and support which
utilizes research-driven techniques grounded in cognitive behavioral theory and mindful
“Building Healthy Communities is paramount to children’s health and well-being across the state,” said
Ken Hayward, vice president of Community Relations at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. “From childhood
obesity prevention to increased access to nutritious foods, to improved academic performance and available
resources specific to behavioral health, this program is making a difference directly in schools, directly to
students. We are thankful for our partner network in continuing this initiative to build healthier communities
for our young Michiganders.”
Launched in 2009, BHC is supported by multiple statewide organizations, including Blue Cross Blue
Shield of Michigan, Michigan Department of Education, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services
(MDHHS), Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principals Association (MEMSPA), Michigan Health
Endowment Fund, Michigan Fitness Foundation, Michigan State University Extension, United Dairy Industry of
Michigan, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University Center for Health and Community Impact.
“We’re thrilled to be a part of this statewide initiative to create ecosystems of health in Michigan
schools. Building Healthy Communities programming will provide timely, critical support for thousands of
children after a deeply challenging year,” said Becky Cienki, director of behavioral health at the Michigan
Health Endowment Fund.
Paul Liabenow, executive director of MEMSPA, said, “MEMSPA is delighted to continue our
partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield’s Step Up for Wellness Building Healthy Communities program for
2021-22. Over the past school year, we have seen remarkable results, hearing from numerous educators about
BHC’s positive impact on staff and student wellness. With the addition of resources for the next program year,
we hope to improve the quality of life for thousands more.”
“Good nutrition combined with physical activity is an important part of leading a healthy lifestyle, and
preventing chronic conditions,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health
at MDHHS. “Schools play a critical role in modeling and supporting children to develop healthy habits. It is
exciting to continue in this partnership to offer the resources schools need to continue their movement toward
healthy and supportive school climates.”
“The Center for Health and Community Impact at Wayne State University has been privileged to play a
key role in helping to facilitate a healthier and more successful Michigan for over a decade. This partnership
has played a tremendous role in advancing health equity for countless children and families,” said Nate
McCaughtry, director, Center for Health and Community Impact for Wayne State University.
“Studies have clearly shown that students who have healthier nutrition and more physical activity
perform better in the classroom,” said Kim A. Eagle, MD, co-founder of Project Healthy Schools, Albion Walter Hewlett Professor of Internal Medicine Director, Frankel Cardiovascular Center. “They are establishing
behaviors now that may last their lifetime. We want to help these children to be the most successful they can
be, and we, at the University of Michigan, are committed to providing education and environmental change
that is diverse and inclusive. We are grateful for our partnership with Building Healthy Communities as this
collaboration makes it possible to offer a richer experience for our youth than any one of us could do alone.”
Diane L. Golzynski, director, Office of Health and Nutrition Services at the Michigan Department of
Education, said, “The Building Healthy Communities program is an evidence-based program designed to
directly address the metrics in our state Strategic Education Plan. The Michigan Department of Education is
pleased to continue this great partnership on behalf of our students.”
Cortney Freeland, director of Youth Wellness Programs at the United Dairy Industry of Michigan, said,
“United Dairy Industry of Michigan, on behalf of Michigan’s dairy farm families, is proud to support Building
Healthy Communities. This partnership continues to provide creative solutions to addressing overall student
health in the school environment. Michigan’s dairy farmers are proud to support these initiatives helping to
provide access to nutrient-rich foods, including dairy.”
Participating schools will be provided with training, equipment, materials and other resources to
implement and sustain environmental change, student activities and knowledge and skills-building that
encourage healthy eating and physical activity and address mental health and well-being.
All public, charter and private nonprofit schools in the state are encouraged to review the full program
description and eligibility information at Applications are currently being
accepted for the Building Healthy Communities: Step Up for School Wellness Program and Building Healthy
Communities: Engaging Middle Schools through Project Healthy Schools.
• Building Healthy Communities: Step Up for School Wellness – Applications will be accepted
through 5 p.m. on Sept. 30, 2021. Interested schools can register to join an informational
webinar on May 3, 2021 or Sept. 3, 2021 at 10:00 a.m. at
• Building Healthy Communities: Engaging Middle Schools through Project Healthy Schools –
Applications will be accepted through 5 p.m. on May 31, 2021. Interested schools can register
to join a webinar on May 18, 2021 from 3:30-4:00 pm at
Building Healthy Communities supports Blue Cross’ ongoing commitment to children’s health and
its #MIKidsCan campaign – an initiative focused on encouraging kids to adopt healthy habits early in life that
are more likely to be carried into adulthood. Since its inception, BHC has supported 450,000 students and
1,000 schools statewide. For more information on Blue Cross’ ongoing efforts to help improve childhood
health, visit