The Wellmark Foundation Funds
12 Health Improvement Projects in Iowa
July 8, 2008
(Des Moines, Iowa) – The Wellmark
Foundation funded 12 health improvement grants in Iowa and
South Dakota totaling $1,327,917 at its recent board of directors
meeting. In 2008, The Wellmark Foundation’s funding
efforts will seek to facilitate programs targeting childhood
obesity prevention, and community-based wellness and prevention.
Organizations receiving grants in these designated health
priority areas are listed below. All awards are two-year grants
unless otherwise noted.
Childhood Obesity Prevention
- Des Moines Public Schools will use a $46,991 one-year
grant to prevent childhood obesity by creating a fitness
arcade designed to increase physical activity of students
at Merrill Middle School. The fitness arcade will use technology-driven
games that require students to be physically active in order
to play. Although the arcade will be available to all students,
the program will target high-risk students and their families.
- Healthy Henry County Communities in Mt. Pleasant received
a $135,500 grant to enhance a childhood obesity prevention
program targeting children in kindergarten through eighth
grade. The program continues an ongoing wellness initiative
to improve childhood weight issues in the county, which
has been supported by previous Wellmark Foundation grants
and a Harkin Wellness grant. New programming will include
innovative outreach and services to engage Hispanic children.
- A $64,428 grant will allow the Iowa Department of Public
Health to develop a new body mass index (BMI) surveillance
system for elementary students across the state. The system
will provide consistent and standardized data on children’s
weight status so that effective strategies to improve overweight
in children can be implemented and monitored.
- A $105,000 grant will allow the Iowa Health Foundation
in Des Moines to pilot a national childhood obesity prevention
program in after-school programs in the West Des Moines
and Perry Community School Districts. The grant will implement
work planned through a previous Wellmark Foundation capacity-building
grant received in 2007.
- Iowa State University in Ames will use a $148,909 grant
to impact healthy food choices in schools. A nutrition program
designed to identify best practice nutrition guidelines
for foods sold outside of school meals will be piloted in
six communities. Based on these findings, a model will be
developed to assist schools when implementing these nutrition
- The Trinity Health Foundation in Fort Dodge received a
$145,500 grant to develop a school-based wellness and obesity
prevention program targeting students in kindergarten through
eighth grade. This multi-faceted program will include curriculum
enhancements, daily physical education classes, a walking
initiative and an after-school swimming program provided
in collaboration with the local YMCA.
- The University of Iowa Foundation received a $87,278 grant
to implement a school-based nutrition improvement project
designed to prevent childhood obesity through improved concessions
stand offerings at sporting events. The 18-month project
will evaluate current food offerings, identify barriers
to healthy options, implement new offerings, and evaluate
the sales and profitability of new offerings. A how-to guide
based on findings will be created and distributed to other
Community-Based Wellness and Prevention
- Communities in Schools of Cedar Valley, Inc. in Waterloo
received an $88,974 grant to enhance a successful school-based
health education program designed to prevent teen pregnancy
and sexually transmitted infections, and to increase self
esteem among youth ages 12-19 years. Identified disparities
in African American girls will be addressed by creating
a Youth of Color coalition and offering a culturally appropriate
summer health education program.
- A $149,833 grant was awarded to the Elderbridge Agency
on Aging in Mason City to expand a wellness program for
older adults to 24 congregate meal sites. The program incorporates
balance, flexibility and strength training, as well as nutrition
and health education segments to promote healthy aging.
The project replicates an initiative originally launched
at one congregate meal site in 2007 through support of a
Wellmark Foundation mini-grant.
- A $150,000 grant to the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation
in Des Moines will support construction of a 25-mile paved
trail in central Iowa. This funding intends to promote community
wellness by increasing options for exercise and healthy
lifestyle choices. Efforts to encourage use of the trail
for health improvement will also be implemented.
- Mercy Medical Center Foundation in Sioux City received
a $100,504 grant to implement an awareness program focused
on improving access to colorectal cancer screenings. Strategies
include working with physician clinics to identify and contact
persons who have not undergone recommended colorectal cancer
screenings, a community-wide social marketing campaign,
and an educational exhibit including a 40-foot long fiberglass
- A $105,000 grant will allow the Polk County Agricultural
Extension District in Des Moines to improve community wellness
through a nutrition improvement project focused on vending
machines. A nationally recognized survey instrument will
be modified to examine the nutritional value of offerings
in vending environments. After piloting in six communities,
a community report card process and online reporting system
will be created.
The Wellmark Foundation has provided nearly $14.7 million
to fund 406 health-related grants in Iowa and South Dakota
since 1997, including $1,739,233 this cycle. “The Wellmark
Foundation collaborates with non-profit and governmental organizations
in Iowa and South Dakota to positively impact the health outcomes
of individuals and communities in our states,” says
Matthew McGarvey, director of The Wellmark Foundation. “We
had an excellent group of applications in this first round
of grants under our new funding priority areas of childhood
obesity prevention, and community-based wellness and prevention.
We are confident that collectively, this group of projects
will make great strides in improving the health of individuals
and communities across Iowa,” explains McGarvey.
The Wellmark Foundation is a private, non-profit foundation
created by Wellmark, Inc., doing business as Wellmark Blue
Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa. Due to the Foundation’s
recent significant support toward disaster relief efforts,
the timeline for the second 2008 community responsive grant
cycle has been modified. Letters of Interest (LOIs) are now
due on September 23, 2008. Learn more about this funding opportunity
during a grant applicant teleconference on July 21, 2008.
For teleconference and LOI details, visit the Foundation’s
Web site at www.wellmark.com/foundation. Wellmark Blue Cross
and Blue Shield and The Wellmark Foundation are independent
licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.