Healthy U Funding Partner

As a signature program of The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, the $3.45 million Healthy U initiative was established in 2008 to prevent childhood obesity by fostering positive behavioral changes in children ages 5 to 13.  Through an engaging, multi-pronged approach, the program educates children on proper nutrition, increases their physical activity and promotes strong parental involvement.

The program began as a partnership between The foundation and the New Jersey YMCA State Alliance.  It initially served more than 18,000 children at 360 YMCA after-school sites, earning the distinction of being the nation's largest coordinated, after-school childhood obesity prevention program.  During this phase, The Foundation invested $1.2 million in Healthy U.

The $2.25 million Phase 2 expansion grant in 2012 from The Foundation has enabled the New Jersey YMCA State Alliance to make Healthy U available in a total of 405 after school sites, 80 preschools and 50 elementary schools.  The program currently impacts more than 40,000 children ages 3 to 13.

Speaking to the growing impact of Healthy U, the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) will partner with the New Jersey YMCA State Alliance to expand Healthy U into five more school districts, where an additional 10,000 children will participate.

Healthy U was recognized as a model program for healthy living at the YMCA General Assembly that hosted more than 4,000 participants, and now other YMCA Alliances across the country are exploring the model.  The program uses the evidence-based award-winning CATCH (Coordinated Approach to Child Health) curriculum created by the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, School of Public Health (UTHSC).  It is evaluated by Jennifer Conroy, DrPH, MPH, in collaboration with the UTHSC.

By teaching children that eating healthy and being physically active every day can be fun, Healthy U has a measurable impact on participants.  A comparison of 2008 baseline results to 2013 impact has shown:

Increases in:
  • consuming fruits or vegetables
  • drinking water
  • physical activity
  • playing outside for 30 minutes
  • parents supporting physical activity
Decreases in:
  • consuming junk food
  • drinking soda or fruit punch
  • watching TV and using the computer