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YMCA Activate America™ YMCA of the USA externally launched YMCA Activate America™ before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations in July 2004. The goal of Activate America is to promote healthy living among millions of Americans by equipping America’s 2,594 YMCAs to become dramatically more effective in: Directly helping individuals and families live healthier lives, and Helping lead their communities and the nation to reduce barriers to and increase support for healthy living. Component Strategies of YMCA Activate America™ There are three integrated strategies to YMCA Activate America: an organizational improvement strategy, a community leadership strategy, and a strategic partnership strategy. 1. The Gulick Project is the working name for the Organizational Improvement strategy that is re-engineering the way YMCAs work directly with individuals and families to support healthy living. The project is named after Luther Gulick, an early YMCA health and wellness pioneer. Using the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s Breakthrough Series, the Gulick Project is driving operational and programmatic innovations that enhance YMCAs’ ability to work much more effectively at promoting healthy living among two key audiences: Adult “health seekers” and their families: those who want to be active and healthy, but continuously stop and start the process and have been unable to sustain their commitment to health and wellness. Some sources estimate that as much as 35 percent of the American population meets this definition. School-age children/youth and their families, including but not limited to the more than 9 million children and their families participating in YMCA child care programs every day. Approximately 100 YMCA branches and childcare sites are currently participating in the formative and pilot phases of the Gulick Project. The innovations that prove to be the most effective in supporting these target audiences will soon be spread to the entire YMCA movement. 2. The Community Leadership component of Activate America is a public outreach strategy to reduce community barriers and increase community supports for healthy living. Two of its signature programs are Pioneering Healthier Communities and YMCA Healthy Kids Day. The Pioneering Healthier Communities project is premised on the belief that the most challenging health issues facing communities are not the health issues themselves, but rather the difficulty of communities to organize themselves to respond effectively to those health challenges. This project brings community leaders together to design community strategies that will promote culture and environmental change that is supportive of healthy lifestyles. Accordingly, each year, YMCAs are selected to serve as conveners of teams of high-level community representatives from government, public health and private sectors to reduce community barriers or increase community supports for healthy living. Teams formally begin their work together at an annual conference in Washington, DC, when national experts counsel them on ways to create, implement, evaluate and sustain community strategies to promote healthy living. After the annual conference, teams work together for multiple years to implement the strategies they develop. Currently 35 communities are part of the Pioneering Healthier Communities project. YMCA Healthy Kids Day is a grassroots event that complements the year-round Pioneering Healthier Communities project. Annually, through fun and engaging activities, Healthy Kids Day® encourages children and families to adopt and sustain behaviors that support healthy living. In 2006, Healthy Kids Day® will involve more than a half a million children and families through events in more than 1,300 communities. 3. The final element of Activate America focuses on Strategic Partnerships as a way to magnify the impact of both the Gulick Project and Community Leadership strategies. In connection with the Gulick Project, Activate America is partnering with Harvard University’s School of Public Health through its Prevention Research Center on Nutrition and Physical Activity, and with Stanford University School of Medicine through its Prevention Research Center’s Health Improvement Program. In connection with the community leadership strategy, Activate America is working with Expert Advisors from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Active Living by Design program, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Steps to a HealthierUS program (the Bush Administration’s signature health and wellness program) the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, America on the Move, American Public Health Association, Association of Community Health Initiatives, Health Research Education Trust, and the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors YMCA of the USA was also named the lead national partner on the Steps to a Healthier US program and has engaged 40 YMCAs in a collaborative partnership with the Steps Communities to further sustain and disseminate the works of the program and to enhance service capacity and capability through YMCAs. . In connection with these strategies, the YMCA is partnering with several Fortune 500 companies, including Kimberly-Clark Corporation and PepsiCo, which understand that, while the YMCA cannot alone change health and wellness in America, health and wellness in America cannot be change without the YMCA.
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