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Montana Foundation Looks to Fight Youth Obesity Statewide

A Blue Cross Blue Shield-controlled foundation announced last week that it would be funding proposals to battle the childhood-obesity epidemic at the statewide level.

The Foundation for a Healthy Montana, part of Blue Cross Blue Shield Montana, issued a request for proposals aimed at reducing youth obesity across the state as part of its "Healthy, Education Workforce for Montana Initiative."

The foundation hosted a Healthy, Educated Workforce Summit in May, convening health-care and education leaders to discuss ways to ensure that the current student generation would learn to live long, healthy lives.

The participants at the gathering determined that a statewide culture shift was necessary to make a true impact against childhood obesity—a theory recently echoed by Mick Cornett, mayor of Oklahoma City, at the Leadership for Healthy Communities' Childhood Obesity Prevention Summit. (Cornett challenged his city to collectively lose 1 million pounds in 2008; residents had passed 900,000 pounds at last check.)

Winning proposals in Montana will include "significant partnerships" among existing organizations, "with an emphasis on leveraging already successful infrastructures and entities with shared missions," according to a release from the foundation. The proposals also must be able to expand on a grassroots level and leverage new technologies (including social media) to reach the youngest generation of Montana residents.

"We're eager to get some innovative new ideas on the table for statewide, grassroots initiatives that can have a game-changing impact on the health and education status of future generations of Montana," said Tim Warner, a Blue Cross spokesman and executive director of the foundation, to the Helena Independent Record.

The formal proposals, which are limited to 15 pages, are due to the foundation by Oct. 26. The foundation will make final decisions in December and has more than $1 million available for projects, according to the paper.

"It's going to take more than government to get this done," Warner said. "It will take a real commitment from the private sector, the business community, nonprofit groups—and we're trying to play an organizing role in making that happen."

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