Mountain States Foundation receives $336,000 grant to fight childhood obesity


JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – The Mountain States Foundation (MSF) has been selected to receive a $336,000 grant from Blue-Cross Blue-Shield of Tennessee Health Foundation to fund programs designed to fight childhood obesity in local schools. Blue-Cross officials presented a check to Mountain States Health Alliance (MSHA) and MSF officials during an event at Woodland Elementary School Tuesday morning. 

Since 1997, The Mountain States Foundation has supported a series of programs in Northeast Tennessee school systems designed to give teachers the tools they need to bring health education alive for their students. The initiative provides a health education curriculum called Growing Healthy to kindergarten through third grade, a physical education component for kindergarten through fifth grade, and GoTrybe, an online interactive community for kindergarten through high school that encourages children and adolescents to incorporate physical activity into their daily lives. 

The Growing Healthy program provides teachers with a three-day inservice training session, along with classroom tools like books, puppets, DVDs and models. 

“The idea is to make learning about health easy and fun,” said Pat Holtsclaw, president of the Mountain States Foundation. “We want kids to know that exercise equals fun and nutritious foods are delicious, so we’re providing the tools and training to help teachers bring health education alive.” 

During Tuesday's event, Woodland Elementary students demonstrated the Heart Adventure, an interactive component of Growing Healthy that teaches children about the cardiovascular system by allowing them to "circulate" through an obstacle course that illustrates how blood moves through the heart and lungs. 

"This program is an amazing step in the fight against childhood obesity," said Marcy Walker, a member of the MSF Board of Trustees. "It is not the sole answer, but it is a piece of a very large puzzle. "The great thing about this curriculum is that is can be integrated into what the teachers are already teaching, and it allows them to bring health lessons to the students in a comprehensive and engaging way." 

“The Growing Healthy program is leading the efforts to combat childhood obesity in our state,” said Vicky Gregg, CEO of BlueCross. “Its comprehensive and interactive approach has proven to be a successful model for other schools to replicate in our shared fight against the obesity epidemic. We’re encouraged by the program’s outcomes and are pleased to help strengthen its work with this grant.” Of the $336,000, $250,000 will support Growing Healthy. The grant also includes $50,000 for Pediatric Stories for the Soul, a partnership between local storytellers and Niswonger Children’s Hospital that produces stories designed to help pediatric hospital patients cope and heal. The stories are broadcast on an internal channel at Niswonger. The remaining $36,000 will support GoTrybe. 

“Blue-Cross Blue-Shield of Tennessee Health Foundation has demonstrated an amazing commitment to the children of this region through this grant as well as other initiatives throughout the state,” said Holtsclaw. “They truly set an example of community citizenship.”
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