Blue Cross Foundation Announces up to $10 Million in Challenge Grants to Fight Obesity in Louisiana

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Released: Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation is issuing a challenge—backed with several million dollars in grant funding—to communities across Louisiana to address the staggering rise in obesity rates.

“The Blue Cross Foundation is committed to improving the health of our state, and this is a major public health concern,” said Mike Reitz, President and CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana. “Obesity contributes to a long list of chronic conditions—such as heart disease and diabetes—that diminish the quality of people’s lives in Louisiana while pushing healthcare costs higher.”

The company is partnering with the Pennington Biomedical Research Center—noted for its work to combat childhood obesity and recognized as the foremost academic nutritional research center in the world—to administer the grant program, called Challenge for a Healthier Louisiana. Announced today at Pennington’s fourth annual Childhood Obesity Conference in Baton Rouge, the grant program will offer matching financial assistance to non-profit organizations for projects that promote healthy eating, active living and environmental change.

“This represents a great example of a private–public partnership that can benefit all Louisianians,” said Dr. Peter Katzmarzyk, associate executive director for population science at the Pennington Center.

Challenge for a Healthier Louisiana aims to improve statistics like these released recently by the Centers for Disease Control and the Louisiana Obesity Council:

  • Our state ranks fifth highest in the country for obesity
  • Nearly half of Louisiana’s schoolchildren are overweight
  • Almost one third are classified as obese

Louisiana-based 501(c)(3) non-profits are eligible for the grants, but projects should have multiple collaborators. The Blue Cross Foundation encourages applicants to partner with local municipalities, school districts, universities, hospitals, research centers and/or chambers of commerce. “The Foundation Board of Directors believes that community support is vital to this effort to encourage healthier lifestyles,” said Foundation President Peggy Scott.

Katzmarzyk agreed, saying, “Measurable improvements in community health will take the concerted efforts of many different organizations and levels of government. The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation’s Challenge Grant program is a major investment in the future of Louisiana, and it has the potential to make a real difference.”

The Foundation’s website at offers resources for applicants, including ways to reach out to potential partners in each local area.

Challenge for a Healthier Louisiana is looking for projects that address the causes of obesity through changes in policies, practices, social support and the physical environment. Projects should incorporate several of the following efforts:

  • Encourage healthy lifestyles
  • Include/promote physical activity
  • Promote fitness and nutrition education
  • Support parental involvement in children’s lives
  • Provide access to safe facilities and neighborhoods for physical activity
  • Directly support adequate and healthy nutrition

The Blue Cross Foundation will award grants ranging from $250,000 to $1 million. Applicants must provide at least a one-to-one match in funding, which may come from various sources. Up to half of the matching funds may be in kind. Those interested can find detailed information about the grant requirements and application timeline at


The Pennington Biomedical Research Center is at the forefront of medical discovery as it relates to understanding the triggers of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia. It is a campus of Louisiana State University and conducts basic, clinical and population research. The research enterprise at Pennington Biomedical includes approximately 80 faculty and more than 25 post-doctoral fellows who comprise a network of 44 laboratories supported by lab technicians, nurses, dietitians, and support personnel, and 13 highly specialized core service facilities. Pennington Biomedical's more than 500 employees perform research activities in state-of-the-art facilities on the 222-acre campus located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.