In more than 30 communities across the state, Illinois Ys are working in collaboration with other community leaders on an intentional effort to ensure that healthy living is within reach of the people who live in those communities. Ys engaged in our Healthier Communities Initiatives (HCI) are:

  • Helping families put healthier food on the table by bringing fresh fruits and vegetables to neighborhoods where there are no healthy food options
  • Giving parents peace of mind when they let their kids walk to school by making safe routes to schools possible
  • Helping to keep a generation of kids healthier by working with schools to increase physical education and physical activity during the school day, and
  • Working with afterschool programs to provide additional opportunities outside the school day for physical activity;

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. This work is a legislative priority of our State Alliance to create healthy living opportunities for Illinois residents with a focus on reducing childhood obesity. This is being achieved in many ways from:
1. Creating safe routes for kids to walk to schools
2. Increasing healthy food options during the school day and after school, and
3. Increasing physical activity during the school day and after school.

Currently, the Illinois State Alliance of YMCAs has the greatest number of healthier communities’ initiatives underway in the movement and looking for new opportunities to expand further. This is going to take hard work and we know that the only way we will be successful is to work with our community partners. State Alliance members serve on a number of other statewide coalitions to ensure that we are learning and working together as we know it will take the effort of all to be successful.


The ultimate goal of HCI is to create sustainable changes that improve community environments with the following objectives in mind:

  • Enhance the role of policy, systems, and environmental changes in healthy lifestyles;
  • Build relationships by focusing on the leading health issues facing communities;
  • Strengthen the capacity for coalition building;
  • Attract a diverse set of volunteers to build healthy communities; and
  • Increase communities’ ability to promote equitable policy and environmental changes that support healthy living.

Launched in 2004, PHC focuses on collaborative engagement with community leaders, how health and well-being are influenced by environments and the impact of policy in sustaining change. With support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), along with corporate and foundation donors, 129 communities across the country currently participate in PHC, including 17 communities participating with a health equity focus who are more intentionally addressing the needs of communities of color and low-income populations. Illinois has 6 PHC and 1 healthy equity community initiative.

Prairie Valley Family YMCA
PHC (2006)

Two Rivers YMCA
PHC (2006)

Rock River Valley YMCA
PHC (2007)

YMCA of Southwest Illinois
PHC (2008)

Kishwaukee Family YMCA
PHC (2010)

Tri-Town YMCA
PHC (2011)

Rock Island Health Equity Initiative
A partnership with the Two Rivers PHC (2011)

McGaw YMCA – PHC (2011)
Funded through a grant from Sam’s Club


Launched in 2009, Statewide PHC addresses the childhood obesity epidemic through policy and environmental changes with implications for communities, states and the nation. With funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and Sam’s Club® this program operates at the local and state levels in seven states (Arkansas, Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee) and 42 communities. Illinois was part of the 2010 cohort which also included Michigan and Ohio. Illinois represents 8 of the 42 communities.

Four key principles drive the initiatives:
1. Community leaders are involved throughout the initiative, using their positions, influence, and ability to make changes within their organization and the greater community;
2. Multiple sectors and diverse organizations are involved to maximize experience, assets, resources and skills;
3. Local initiatives are organically grown with strategies specific to the needs of each community;
4. YMCA serves as convener in the community and co-leads with partner organizations.

Participating Ys and their communities represent small, medium are large communities in rural, suburban and urban areas; and many sites are focused on low-income, underserved, racial, and ethnic populations.

Alfred Campanelli YMCA
RWJF State PHC (2010)

High Ridge YMCA Branch of YMCA of Metro Chicago
RWJF State PHC (2010)

BR Ryall YMCA of Northwestern DuPage County
RWJF State PHC (2010)

Greater Joliet Area YMCA
RWJF State PHC (2010)

Kankakee Area YMCA
RWJF State PHC (2010)

Peoria YMCA
RWJF State PHC (2010)

Quincy YMCA
RWJF State PHC (2010)

West Cook YMCA
RWJF State PHC (2010)


Action Communities for Health, Innovation, and Environmental changE (ACHIEVE) is a partnership between local communities and national and state organizations joined in a movement to create healthier places to live, work and play. Through ACHIEVE, partners take a holistic approach to creating healthy communities for this and future generations and change policies on physical activity, nutrition, tobacco cessation, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, to make the healthy choice the easy choice. It also provides local leaders with technical assistance to empower communities to take local action to solve specific health problems. Launched in 2009, 133 communities, including the 40 communities selected in 2011 are focused on increasing opportunities for their communities and community members to be healthier. Each community is selected for a 3-year period, and the national organizations support community action teams in those communities through their local affiliates. Communities receive technical support from national organizations as well as national experts in community-level change for chronic disease prevention. The five national organizations involved in ACHIEVE-National Association of County and City Health Officials, National Association of Chronic Disease Directors, National Recreat ion and Park Association, the VMCA of the USA, and the Society for Public Health Education. This network enables these communities to have access to innovative ideas, strategies and solutions, which allow these communities with opportunities to tap into each of the national organizations strengths, while at the same time creating a larger mobilized movement to make healthier places.

Two Illinois Ys are part of this initiative:

Bloomington VMCA
ACHIEVE (2010)

Decatur YMCA
ACHIEVE (2012)