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Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois and Partner Organizations Continue Play Streets in Chicago

November 20, 2012

Partnership for a Healthier America and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association to support Active Transportation Alliance, Local Initiatives Support Corporation/Chicago and World Sport Chicago in ongoing initiative to combat childhood obesity by creating spaces for play

Chicago, IL — More Play Streets events are coming to Chicago neighborhoods that lack safe and open spaces for kids to play. Through support from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL) and the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA), Play Streets events will continue to be hosted by Active Transportation Alliance (Active Trans), Local Initiatives Support Corporation/Chicago (LISC/Chicago) and World Sport Chicago (WSC).

Spearheaded in Chicago by the Chicago Department of Public Health through a public-private partnership with BCBSIL, the program's original funder, Play Streets is a citywide initiative that secures city neighborhood streets to provide Chicago families with open and safe spaces to get active.

Play Streets spaces are fun and feature a variety of activities that promote fitness and healthy lifestyles. A few Play Streets activities include obstacle courses, jumping castles, jump rope, basketball, dancing and Zumba. It is an effective and creative way to address the childhood obesity epidemic in America.

Play Streets is endorsed by First Lady Michelle Obama as part of her "Let's Move!" physical activity and fitness campaign.

"We're committed to supporting efforts that foster wellness, disease prevention and healthy, active lifestyles," said Donna Gerber, BCBSIL's vice president of Community Investment. "We're thrilled to see the Association and PHA further our efforts to extend Play Streets in the Chicago communities."

"As many different partners work to make healthy lifestyles as accessible as possible, we need to remember that keeping kids active often isn't a secret — they just need safe places to be kids," said Andres Alvear, Active Trans' Director of Education and Outreach. "A PlayStreet provides a place for them to do just that, and it leverages Chicago's existing infrastructure. It's inexpensive, accessible and, most importantly, fun for the whole community."

Active Trans, LISC/Chicago and WSC will work with BCBSIL, BCBSA and PHA to hold regular Play Streets events in several Chicago neighborhoods. This is one of more than 50 grant programs by BCBSIL that promote active lifestyles and encourage lifelong healthy habits in Chicago and across the State of Illinois.

The impact on activity rates from Play Streets is expected to be significant. Pioneer programs in Chicago and elsewhere already demonstrate that when given the choice between participating in Play Streets or opting for sedentary interests, the majority of children choose the active play option. Programs also spur greater engagement and cohesion between community residents at Play Streets events.

"Today in America, one in five kids doesn't have access to a playground — that's millions of children who can't pick up a ball, run outside or have fun in a safe environment," said PHA President and CEO Lawrence A. Soler. "We're thrilled that Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois and its Chicago partners are proactively tackling this challenge by continuing Play Streets events. We can't wait to see the national initiative in action — to see kids running around in these spaces and to hear sounds of traffic replaced by sounds of kids at play."

Details about the location and dates of the Play Streets events in Chicago can be found online  with further details announced in early 2013.

About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL)
With 7.2 million members, BCBSIL, a division of Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company, is the largest health insurance company in Illinois. Started in 1936, BCBSIL remains member owned rather than publicly traded and is committed to promoting the health and wellness of its members and its communities, fostering greater access to care, and working to lower the overall cost of care while improving the health care quality and patient outcomes.

About Active Transportation Alliance (Active Trans)
The mission of Active Transportation Alliance is to make bicycling, walking and public transit so safe, convenient and fun that we will achieve a significant shift from environmentally harmful, sedentary travel to clean, active travel. We advocate for transportation that encourages and promotes safety, physical activity, health, recreation, social interaction, equity, environmental stewardship and resource conservation. Contact: Andres Alvear, andres@activetrans.org, (312) 427-3325 ext. 296. Media inquiries should be directed to Ethan Spotts, ethan@activetrans.org, (312) 427-3325 ext. 287.

About Local Initiatives Support Corporation, Chicago (LISC/Chicago)
LISC/Chicago organizes capital and other resources to support initiatives that stimulate the comprehensive development of healthy, stable neighborhoods and foster their connection to the socioeconomic mainstream of the metropolitan region. Since 1980, LISC/Chicago has infused more than $196 million into housing, human and economic development projects, leveraging a total of $4.8 billion in aggregate community investment. The results are quantifiable: with LISC/Chicago support nearly 30,000 units of affordable housing and 5 million square feet of commercial space have been developed and more than 20,000 Chicago residents have been engaged in planning, provided training, or direct service to improve their quality of life. Contact: Keri Blackwell, kblackwell@lisc.org, (312) 422-9558.

About World Sport Chicago (WSC)
WSC is an independent, non-profit organization that strives to teach life-enhancing values and character development through sport. We believe that sport has the power to strengthen individuals, and in turn, Chicago's communities. This mentality is translated into programs and events designed to create opportunities and support our partnerships with civic agencies, other non-profit organizations and professional Chicago sports teams. WSC is the living legacy of the Chicago 2016 Olympic and Paralympic bid and is designated by the United States Olympic Committee one of ten national Community Olympic Development Program partners. Contact: Jason Eby, media@worldsportchicago.org, (312) 861-4850.

About Partnership for a Healthier America
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 importantly, PHA ensures that commitments made are commitments kept by working with unbiased third parties to monitor and publicly report on the progress its partners are making. For more information about PHA, please visit www.aHealthierAmerica.org .

About the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association
The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) is a national federation of 38 independent, community-based and locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies that collectively provide healthcare coverage for 100 million members — one in three Americans. For more information on BCBSA and its member companies, please visit bcbs.com .