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Department of Health and Human Services
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News Release

Thursday, September 9, 2004

Contact: HHS Press Office
(202) 690-6343

HHS Awards $2 Million to YMCA to Help Strengthen Network of Steps Communities

HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson today announced $2 million in grants to the national office of the YMCA (Y-USA) to help build strong partnerships with local communities and promote better health and prevent disease among all Americans. The grants are part of President George W. Bush's Steps to a HealthierUS initiative, which aims to help Americans live longer, healthier lives by reducing the burden of diabetes, overweight, obesity and asthma and by addressing three related risk factors -- physical inactivity, poor nutrition and tobacco use.

With more than 2,500 YMCA's in the country, this funding will help strengthen the network of local YMCA chapters by developing and implementing strategies to work together with previously funded "Steps" communities. The partnership will use the best scientific and educational information available to help in their efforts to reduce the burden of diabetes, obesity and asthma. Currently there are 23 Steps communities, including one tribal consortium, 15 small cities or rural communities and seven large cities.

"Partnering with the network of YMCA's throughout the country will allow us to broaden our efforts to improve the health of all Americans," Secretary Thompson said. "With YMCA's ability to reach up to 10,000 communities and their strong foundation and vigor, we can reach more people and address the needs to increase physical activity, improve nutrition, and end tobacco use."

The $2 million in grants, distributed over four years, will be awarded in two stages. The first stage will bring together Steps-funded communities, local YMCA's, HHS experts and other national organizations to create local events built around existing YMCA programs like "Healthy Kid's Day", "World's Largest Walk/Run", current YMCA school and after-school health promotion activities, and current YMCA educational classes that advance health and wellness programming. The second stage will allow local YMCA's in Steps communities to apply for mini-grants from Y-USA based on their proposals. Steps to a HealthierUS focuses on diabetes, asthma, overweight and obesity because of their increasing prevalence in the United States and the ability for individuals to control and even prevent these diseases through exercise, diet and other healthy lifestyle strategies. The number of people with diabetes in the United States has nearly doubled in the past decade to 18.3 million. An estimated 10 million adults and 5 million children suffer from asthma, and the number of cases of obesity in the United States has increased more than 50 percent over the past two decades.

Some examples of programs that YMCA's could foster in conjunction with schools, communities, health care centers, or workplaces could establish include: organized community activities such as walking programs, health education classes, and media campaigns; along with environmental interventions like smoking cessation programs and increasing healthy food choices in schools. Partners include state and local departments of education and health, various other government agencies, school districts, health care providers, national and local health organizations, faith-based agencies, private sector and academic institutions.

Secretary Thompson announced the creation of the new community grant programs in April 2003 during the first Steps to a HealthierUS summit in Baltimore, Md. More information about this initiative and its grants is available at


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Last Revised: September 9, 2004

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