Project Healthy Schools wins Governor’s Fitness Award

On August 20, Project Healthy Schools won the Governor’s Fitness Award in the Extraordinary Organization category. Presented by the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness, Health and Sports and the Michigan Fitness Foundation, the Governor’s Fitness Awards recognize communities, organizations, and individuals who inspire people to eat healthy and move more where they live, work and play. The Extraordinary Organization award honors organizations with an extraordinary record of giving and stewardship that focuses on improving the environment where people live, learn, work, pray and play.

Project Healthy Schools was one of three finalists for this highly competitive award. The finalists were announced in March, just before the start of the pandemic. The awards gala, originally scheduled for April 23, was rescheduled for August 20 as a virtual awards celebration. Watch the virtual awards presentation video:

18 schools win Michigan School Wellness Awards

In June, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) recognized 50 Michigan schools for fostering healthy eating, physical activity habits and tobacco-free lifestyles; 18 of the award winning schools use the Project Healthy Schools (PHS) program. Fifty percent of the Gold award winners use PHS. These schools started PHS as part of the Building Healthy Communities partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and MDHHS.

The Michigan School Wellness Award program is a collaboration with the Michigan Department of Education; the United Dairy Industry of Michigan; Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan; Michigan Action for Healthy Kids; and the Healthy Kids, Healthy Michigan Coalition.

The program aims to engage schools statewide in creating healthy school environments by establishing school wellness teams, completing the State of Michigan’s Healthy School Action Tools and implementing sustainable policy and environmental changes. Schools that have achieved all of these elements are recognized with the top-level Gold award.

The winning PHS schools include:

Gold Award

• Allendale Middle School, Allendale
• Cherryland Middle School, Elk Rapids
• Ishpeming Middle/High School, Ishpeming
• John D. Pierce Middle School, Waterford
• MacDonald Middle School, East Lansing
• Portland Middle School, Portland
• Summit Academy North High School, Romulus
• White Pine Middle School, Saginaw

Silver Award

• Almont Middle School, Almont
• Creekside Intermediate School, Dexter
• DeWitt Middle School, DeWitt
• Grass Lake Middle School, Grass Lake
• Paul Robeson Malcolm X Academy, Detroit
• Thunder Bay Junior High School, Alpena
• Vista Charter Academy, Wyoming

Bronze Award

• Bentley Middle School, Burton
• Pittsford Middle/High School, Pittsfield
• St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School, Coldwater

Congratulations to the administrators, wellness champions, and wellness teams at the above schools.

PHS now offers vaping and infectious diseases prevention lessons

This summer, the PHS team, in partnership with U-M experts from the Tobacco Consultation Service, Michigan Medicine, the School of Public Health, and the Medical School, developed two new lesson modules on vaping and infectious disease prevention. Based on feedback from teachers and wellness champions, both of these subjects are highly relevant for middle school students.

In the two-lesson vaping module, students learn to recognize different types of electronic nicotine delivery systems, the short- and long-term effects of vaping and the benefits of remaining tobacco free, common myths about vaping, refusal skills, and how vaping advertisements target young people.

The infectious disease module includes two lessons. The first lesson covers the difference between viruses and bacteria, the ways pathogens are transmitted, and three key factors of community spread. The second lesson identifies the purpose and function of the immune system; signs and symptoms of infectious disease; and prevention strategies for infectious disease, including COVID-19. Like all PHS lessons, these lessons include hands-on activities. Many of the activities can easily be adapted for use in a remote-learning environment. These new lesson modules are available to teachers and wellness champions on the PHS Portal, a password protected website for schools in the PHS program.

Students at first-year schools will receive a calendar with pages based on the PHS lessons. Above is the calendar page based on information in the new PHS lessons on infectious disease.

PHS wellness champion appointed to Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness, Health, and Sports

Ryan Reichel from Ishpeming Middle School was appointed to serve on the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness, Health and Sports.

Ryan Reichel, the PHS Wellness Champion at Ishpeming Middle School, was appointed by Governor Whitmer to serve on the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness, Health and Sports. Reichel was appointed for a two-year term, ending in April 2022.

Reichel of Negaunee, is a physical education, computers and health teacher for Ishpeming Public schools and the girls’ varsity basketball coach. He holds a Master of Education in Physical Education from the University of Arkansas and two bachelor degrees from Northern Michigan University where he played on the men’s basketball team.

The Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness, Health and Sports was established in 1992 to improve the health of, and increase physical activity among, Michigan residents. The Council is comprised of representatives from across the state, appointed by the current governor to two-year terms. The Council’s vision is that the state and its communities embrace and support physical activity and health education.

Gender-specific physiological and behavioral differences in PHS students

Graph of Health Behaviors of Boys and Girls at Baseline

Prior research has shown differences in physiologic and behavioral measurements of adolescent boys and girls. The PHS team sought to determine if similar gender-specific differences exist between PHS participants before and after the program.

Health behavior data from 19,959 sixth graders (49.2% girls) and physiologic data from 2,922 sixth graders (52.8% girls) were collected between 2004-2017. Prior to the PHS program, girls had lower HDL cholesterol and higher resting and recovery heart rates, but reported greater consumption of fruits and vegetables and less sugary beverages and fried meats than boys. Boys reported more vigorous exercise but greater hours of television and video game screen time than girls. After the PHS program, girls showed greater improvement in resting heart rate, fruit consumption and video game time than boys.

With the exception of physical activity and mobile device screen time, girls had generally healthier behaviors; however, they also had poorer physiological measures before the PHS program. The lower rates of physical activity and worse resting and recovery heart rates in girls highlight a potential area of focus for the PHS intervention.

Graph showing the relationship between Health Behaviors of Boys and Girls.
Prior to the PHS program, health behavior and physiologic data from middle-school students identified healthier behaviors in girls compared with boys, with the exception of physical activity and mobile device screen time. Girls, however, had poorer HDL cholesterol, resting and recover heart rates, identifying a potential area of focus for the PHS intervention.

Safe Routes to School grant funds bike education for under-served and disabled students

PHS is partnering with Programs to Educate All Cyclists (PEAC) to provide opportunities for increased physical activity through biking and bike education programing for under-served K-8 students and students with disabilities within the cities of Detroit and Ypsilanti. Eight schools will participate in the program, including: Dixon Educational Learning Academy, Hope of Detroit Academy, Paul Robeson Malcolm X Academy, Summit Academy North Middle School, University Prep Art & Design Middle School, University Preparatory Science and Math Middle School, Washtenaw International Middle Academy, Ypsilanti Community Middle School.

Schools may choose from three programs: 1) The Physical Education Bicycle Unit that provides a one-week bike education and safety class; 2) The Earn-A-Bike Program which is an afterschool program that teaches students bike maintenance and bike safety, and upon completion, students may keep their bikes; or 3) The Bike Library Program where students “check out” a bike on a daily basis to get to and from school. In addition to the other educational opportunities, walking and biking to school days will be available.

Funding for this collaborative endeavor is provided by a Safe Routes to School grant from the Michigan Fitness Foundation.

Nine new schools starting BHC:PHS program

Nine new schools are starting the Building Healthy Communities: Engaging Middle Schools through Project Healthy Schools program this fall. The new schools include:

  • American Montessori Academy Upper Campus, Westland
  • Beacon Day Treatment, Southgate
  • Detroit Community Elementary/ Middle School, Detroit
  • East Middle School, Farmington Hills
  • Farmington STEAM Academy, Farmington Hills
  • OJ DeJonge Middle School, Ludington
  • St Clare of Montefalco, Grosse Pointe Park
  • Swan Valley Middle School, Saginaw
  • Warner Middle School, Farmington Hills

Building Healthy Communities is a partnership between Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and the University of Michigan and Wayne State University’s Center for Health and Community Impact. The three Farmington Hills schools are funded by a grant from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund.

PHS Introduces a New Website & Logo


PHS is introducing a new website and logo. You may have noticed the new logo in this newsletter’s header.

The new website provides a user-friendly platform for those interested in learning more about PHS and Building Healthy Communities and includes more resources for families.

PHS is beginning to replace the old logo and transition to a maize and blue color scheme on all materials. The new website features the new logo and the maize and blue color scheme.

Grant supports partnership for a district-wide model for school wellness


University of Michigan’s Project Healthy Schools and Wayne State University’s Center for Health and Community Impact recently partnered to receive a two year, $500,000 Nutrition and Healthy Lifestyles grant from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund.

The collaboration will expand on the success of the Building Healthy Communities program by creating a district-wide model for school wellness, bringing nutrition and physical activity programing to all the elementary and middle school students in a school district. The grant will also enhance the technological platforms for the Building Healthy Communities program at both the Center for Health and Community Impact and PHS to provide evidence-based resources to as broad an audience as possible, providing more support for parents, communities and other stakeholder groups. Many thanks to the Health Fund for supporting Building Healthy Communities, PHS and the Center for Health and Community Impact in this innovative collaboration. Stay tuned for updates in future newsletters.

See what is Cooking at Grass Lake


To encourage a healthier community, Grass Lake hosted after-school cooking classes for students in grades 6th, 7th, & 8th. The cooking classes were offered approximately once per month and cost about $125 in materials per class. Each class held about 25 students. Participants learned about food preparation, where to obtain local produce, and were introduced to healthy recipes. These simple and fun recipes utilized fresh produce from local sources. Overall, the Grass Lake cooking classes were a hit to those who attended; students showed interest in learning how to cook independently and trying new fruits and vegetables. Grass Lake continues to offer the cooking classes at a cost of $5 per student for each class they attend. Going forward, the wellness teams are looking at ways in order to expand this opportunity in hopes that more students and families could benefit.