Chicago — Because of the current health challenges facing families and individuals, Neil Nicoll, president and CEO of the YMCA of the USA, issued a New Year's resolution for the organization: continue to get Americans healthy. To do that, the YMCA is implementing a new strategic plan focused on the holistic development of children and youth, family strengthening, and health and well-being for all.

Since taking on the CEO role in June 2006, Nicoll has focused on uniting the Ys across the country under the strategic plan Activate America.

“Through Activate America, YMCAs are resolved to shift the way we work with health seekers to more effectively support Americans in establishing better and lasting habits around their health,” Nicoll says. “While we don't assume that YMCAs can single-handedly improve the health and well-being of Americans, we believe improvements cannot be made without the YMCA.”

In addition to grants to local Ys for community-based programs and Healthy Kids Day, the YMCA of the USA also collaborates with other corporate and government entities, including the Stanford University School of Medicine (CA).

“The YMCA's commitment to the health and well-being of all Americans through Activate America has huge potential to reverse the declining health trend in America,” says Wesley Alles, a senior research scholar at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

The Y's Pioneering Healthier Communities initiative, which helps form a team of community leaders to improve health in communities, has also been key. From developing walking paths to making sure nutritious options are available in schools, teams develop and execute interventions that influence local policy, the environment and area programs.

The YMCA of the USA is the national resource office for the nation's 2,663 YMCAs, which serve nearly 20.2 million people each year.