Healthy U 11 Years and 96,000 Children Building Healthy Behaviors

September 18, 2019

About 11 years ago, leaders from the YMCA of the Oranges met with the CEO of Horizon Blue Cross to discuss Horizon’s potential sponsorship of a golf outing. They agreed that the two organizations had common goals and envisioned a future that went way beyond a day of golf. They began exploring what a relationship might look like and how they could have the greatest impact on reducing obesity among N.J. kids.

The upshot was Healthy U: It started as a way to promote healthy behavior and prevent childhood obesity through more physical activity, family involvement and nutrition education using CATCH--a nationally recognized curriculum for a Coordinated Approach to Child Health, within N.J. YMCA childcare settings.

Ten years later, Healthy U’s approach to health is championed at 480 YMCAs and 90 schools across the state. Over 96,000 children and their families have experienced the benefits that better nutrition and more physical activity can bring to their lives, including a readiness for children to learn.

In 2013, Healthy U received the YUSA award to recognize efforts to promote and support health and wellness. This was just one of the accolades and evidence of the program’s success. In 2017, Healthy U received the “2017 CATCH Award for Excellence in State Health,” a national distinction from Catch Global Foundation.

Sue Cornell, Healthy U Director for the NJ YMCA State Alliance, sees the impact of Healthy U in families. “Children and their siblings learn about and adopt Healthy U messages in pre-school. In turn, those messages are reinforced as they grow into other YMCA programs. Soon the whole family is eating healthier and spending more time being physically active.” Overall, they are more aware and better educated on positive behaviors that keep them healthy.

What’s Next?

In over 11 years, the Horizon Foundation has invested nearly $5 million to sustain Healthy U through June 30, 2019. And while funding from the Horizon Foundation will end in 2019, the healthy impact on children and families will continue. The principles and practices of CATCH will continue throughout NJ YMCA childcare and activity centers. Plans also include the adoption of the Sanford Harmony social emotional learning program to build healthy relationships and develop boys and girls into compassionate and caring adults.

Jonathan R. Pearson, Executive Director & Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, said “Horizon is proud to have partnered with the Y on Healthy U. The lessons and training have had tremendous impact on New Jersey children and their families. We firmly expect that the momentum for healthier lifestyles will continue to grow.”