YMCA, New Horizon and The Links Commit to Building a Healthier Future at PHA Summit

Groups announce new commitments aimed at ending the childhood obesity epidemic

WASHINGTON, DC (November 30, 2011) – YMCA of the USA, New Horizon Academy and The Links, Incorporated all announced new commitments with the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) during day two of the Building a Healthier Future Summit today, all focused on ending the childhood obesity epidemic. PHA works with the private sector and its honorary chairwoman First Lady Michelle Obama to solve the nation’s childhood obesity crisis and is hosting the Summit.

The Y is committed to establishing minimums for physical activity, maximums for screen time, and keeping food and beverages healthy for the 700,000 children in its out of school programs.

New Horizon Academy, a childcare company based in Minnesota, committed to provide a healthy environment in its 67 centers serving 7,500 children in Minnesota and Idaho. The Links, Incorporated, which is celebrating 65 years as a premier women’s volunteer service organization dedicated to the cultural and economic survival of African Americans, committed to involving its chapters with childhood obesity intervention programs and to assist PHA with monitoring including community assessments and reporting.

“The Building a Healthier Future Summit is about action; these groups, YMCA of the USA, New Horizon Academy and The Links, are the embodiment of what success can look like,” said PHA CEO Larry Soler. “The three organizations making commitments today have always been committed to the health of our nation’s children, but their actions today bring us that much closer to ending this epidemic. From childcare to afterschool programs to the overall monitoring and compliance of the commitments all our partners make, their voluntary efforts should serve as a model for all of us.”

Specifically YMCA of the USA is making the following commitments:

  • Establish a minimum of expected physical activity for children of different ages enrolled in YMCA programs;

  • Designate fruits and vegetables as snack options;

  • Designate water as the primary beverage during snack times;

  • Limit screen time;

  • Encourage breastfeeding of infants in YMCA’s care; and

  • Conduct parent education to encourage healthy behaviors at home.

At least 50 percent of Y Member Associations with early childhood and after-school programs will be in compliance with the new standards by July 1, 2013; 70 percent will be in compliance by July 1, 2014; and 85 percent will be in compliance by July 1, 2015.

The standards vary in order to be age-appropriate for early childhood programs, and older children and youth in after-school programs. Also, over the next four years YMCA of the USA will work with an independent evaluator – the Altarum Institute – to monitor the progress of YMCAs towards the implementation of policies and ensure that commitments made are commitments kept.

“As one of the nation’s largest providers of early childhood and afterschool programs, the Y can make a significant impact in improving the health of hundreds of thousands of children nationwide,” said Neil Nicoll, president and CEO of Y-USA. “Across the country, children are in desperate need of healthy environments that help them thrive. The Y is a leading nonprofit strengthening community through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Implementing standards and practices for Y childcare programs in the 10,000 communities we serve will help create a healthier future for our nation’s children.”

Specifically New Horizon Academy of the USA is making the following commitments:

New Horizon Academy makes the following commitments for its 67 centers serving 7,500 children in Minnesota and Idaho. Within 18 months 85 percent of its centers, and within three years 95 percent of its centers will:

Focus on Nutrition:

  • Follow family-style eating practices

  • Serve fruits and vegetables with every meal

  • Eliminate all fried foods and sugar-sweetened beverages

  • Provide access to water during meals and throughout the day

  • Serve low-fat or non-fat milk to all children over two

  • Serve a maximum of one 4-6 oz. serving of 100 percent fruit juice per day

  • Accommodate mothers who wish to breastfeed

Continue to Focus on Physical Activity

  • Provide a minimum of 1-2 hours of physical activity per day

  • Eliminate screen time for children under two

  • Strive to limit screen time for children ages two and older to a maximum of 30 minutes per week during child care center hours

  • Have policies encouraging parents and caregivers to limit screen time for children outside the center to no more than 1-2 hours per day


Every company that works with the Partnership for a Healthier America is required to participate in a third party evaluation along with the public release of that evaluation’s results. New Horizon Academy is no different and has agreed to the following:

  • Surveying each of it’s 67 centers to ensure goals are being met

    • The survey is created and evaluated by independent verifiers
  • Allowing independent verifiers to analyze its corporate policies and ensure they are in compliance

  • Opening up centers for direct observation

  • Results will be released half way through the commitment (18 months) and at the end of the commitment (36 months)

“Every decision we make is based on prompting the self-esteem of children,” said New Horizon Academy COO Chad Dunkley. “We know that all early childhood development, whether it is social, emotional, cognitive, or gross motor, is built on a foundation of healthy nutrition. We applaud First Lady Michelle Obama and PHA for raising awareness about this issue and for highlighting how critical a child’s early years are for establishing lifelong habits. We are proud to make this commitment and to help spread the word that every individual, every group, every organization has a role in ensuring that this generation, and all future generations, know how to live a healthy lifestyle.”

Specifically the Links of the USA is making the following commitments:

  • Links chapters with childhood obesity intervention projects and health initiatives, their key partners, community stakeholders, and affiliate volunteers to assess local alignment with PHA partner commitments

  • Assess the degree to which the PHA partners and collaborators has transformed the identified community into one that has the capacity to support healthy food options and life style choices

  • Provide feedback on the results of these community assessments as described in numbers 1 and 2

  • Continue the work of education, advocacy and systematic transformation to eliminate childhood obesity in African-American and under-served communities where there are Links Chapters and PHA affiliation

“Obesity rates are growing exponentially among African-American children, and we recognize that overweight and obese children are at a higher risk for a host of chronic illnesses,” said Margot James Copeland, president of The Links, Incorporated. “The Links, Incorporated have made fighting childhood obesity a national priority and we are pleased to involve our chapters in assisting PHA in assessing its partner commitments.”

The Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) is devoted to working with the private sector to ensure the health of our nation’s youth by solving the childhood obesity crisis. In 2010, PHA was created in conjunction with – but independent from – First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! effort. PHA is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that is led by some of the nation’s most respected health and childhood obesity experts. PHA brings together public, private and nonprofit leaders to broker meaningful commitments and develop strategies to end childhood obesity. Most important, PHA ensures that commitments made are commitments kept by working with unbiased, third parties to monitor and publicly report on the progress our partners are making. For more information about PHA, please visit and follow PHA on Twitter @PHAnews.