Houghton County Michigan One of 41 Sites Selected for
National Program to Fight Childhood Obesity

Western U.P. Health Department Receives Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Major Grant to Promote Physical Activity and Healthy Eating

Hancock, January 12, 2010 – Western Upper Peninsula (U.P.) Health Department has been awarded a $360,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to improve opportunities for physical activity and access to affordable healthy foods for children and families in Houghton County, in Michigan’s Western Upper Peninsula region. Based on a rigorous selection process that drew more than 500 proposals from across the country, Houghton County is one of 41 sites selected for the RWJF Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities initiative.

The health department and its partners are leading a local movement to revitalize the community’s health and to both prevent and reverse high rates of overweight and obesity—important risk factors for chronic illnesses like heart disease, cancer and diabetes. The Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities project includes plans for increasing access to affordable nutritious foods and supporting physical activity for everyone in the community.

The Healthy Families Consortium will serve as an advisory group for this project, with members from BHK Child Development Board, the Copper Country Intermediate School District, Michigan Tech University, area hospitals, cities, townships and community-based volunteer groups, among others. The Consortium and project partners will work to develop trails, bike routes, safe routes to school, community gardens and farmers markets.

“This grant will help to empower our communities to take important steps in preventing childhood obesity – an epidemic which is threatening to lead future generations toward poorer rather than better health.” said Dr. Teresa Frankovich, medical director at the health department. “We invite everyone to partner in building a healthier future for local children and families.”




“To reverse this epidemic, communities are going to have to rally around their kids and provide the opportunities they need to be healthy,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “Through this project, Western U.P. Health Department and its partners are doing what it takes to make sure children lead better lives.”

The health department, which serves five counties, hopes to replicate successful initiatives in other parts of the Western U.P.

“This is just the beginning,” said project coordinator Ray Sharp. “We want to take the lessons we learn here and apply them in other towns throughout the region. With funding from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Michigan Building Healthy Communities program, we are building the capacity to help communities identify and implement projects to meet their needs.”

Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities is a $33 million national program and RWJF’s largest investment to date in community-based solutions to childhood obesity. With nine Leading Sites chosen in late 2008, the program now spans 50 communities from Seattle to Puerto Rico. All are targeting improvements in local policies and their community environment—changes that research indicates could have the greatest impact on healthier eating, more active living and obesity prevention. Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities is a cornerstone of RWJF’s $500 million commitment to reverse the country’s childhood obesity epidemic by 2015.

You can visit our local project page at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation here: http://www.healthykidshealthycommunities.org/communities/houghton-county-mi

The 40 other cities and regions just announced as Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities sites are:

Benton County, OR

Boone and Newton Counties, AR

Buffalo, NY

Caguas, PR

Charleston, WV

Chattanooga, TN

Cook County, GA

Cuba, NM

Denver, CO

Desoto, Marshall and Tate Counties, MS

El Paso, TX

Fitchburg, MA

Flint, MI
Grant County, NM

Greenville, SC

Hamilton County, OH

Houston, TX

Jackson, MS

Jacksonville, FL

Jefferson County, AL

Kane County, IL

Kansas City, MO

Kingston, NY

Knox County, TN

Lake Worth, Greenacres and Palm Springs, FL

Milledgeville, GA

Milwaukee, WI

Moore and Montgomery Counties, NC

Multnomah County/Portland, OR

Nash and Edgecombe Counties, NC

New Orleans, LA

Omaha, NE

Philadelphia, PA

Phoenix, AZ

Rancho Cucamonga, CA

Rochester, NY

San Antonio, TX

San Felipe Pueblo, NM

Spartanburg County, SC

Watsonville and Pajaro Valley, CA


All were selected because of strong vision, partnership and a commitment to make lasting change in their communities. The new program grants will continue through June 2013.

Visit www.healthykidshealthycommunities.org to learn more about these communities’ work and plans.