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Release date: November 20, 2012

*** Press Release ***

San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee and San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin are proud to announce a new partnership with Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) of California and Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) to present an innovative program to help combat obesity and increase opportunities for physical activity in San Francisco: Play Streets for All.

The city of San Francisco, through its popular Sunday Streets program has been chosen as one of ten cities to participate in a national Play Streets campaign. Funding will be dedicated to create Play Streets—open street events that provide opportunities for recreation and physical activity for children. PHA, with Honorary Chairwoman Michelle Obama, will be working with the BCBSA and the City of San Francisco, SFMTA, Anthem and Blue Shield to launch Play Streets for All as part of the 2013 Sunday Streets program to help fight childhood obesity and create additional car-free recreational space across the city.

Play Streets for All will develop a series of street-closure events called Play Streets in neighborhoods around San Francisco that lack access to safe, open space. Play Streets will provide a local space for children and families to exercise, play, and build community. Play Streets events will also feature nutrition education and numerous engaging physical activities. Unlike the Sunday Streets program, Play Streets events will be small events, one to two blocks long, and held in residential neighborhoods. The event locations will be specifically chosen to avoid intersecting any public transit lines, busy traffic crossings and commercial loading zones. In addition, Play Streets will offer a specifically targeted set of programming options, and will not allow vending or alcohol consumption. By removing the need for as many additional city resources and staff time as possible, Play Streets for All presents a nimble and inexpensive approach for creating temporary open space.

The pilot program will focus in neighborhoods that suffer from high rates of childhood obesity, lack open space and have few opportunities for safe recreation. Play Streets events will be developed in conjunction with local community organizations to ultimately become a regularly occurring event that each neighborhood can organize and host on their own.

Play Streets for All will be organized and led by Sunday Streets, a project of Livable City, and sponsored by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. To help facilitate community outreach, San Francisco Beautiful will be partnering with Sunday Streets to conduct the community education and training elements of the program.

“San Francisco is committed to making healthy lifestyles as accessible as possible,” says San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, “and we need to remember that keeping kids active isn’t a secret—sometimes the answer is simply providing places for kids to be kids. Play Streets for All will build on our Sunday Street resources and organizing expertise to create family-friendly, safe recreational space in neighborhoods that need it most. And with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California partnering with us, we’ll be able to expand safe, free, fun opportunities for physical activities within the City.”

“We know that when families approach health and fitness together it helps to establish healthy habits at an early age,” said Pam Kehaly, president of Anthem Blue Cross. “We are pleased to work with the city of San Francisco and Blue Shield of California to develop Play Streets events that will encourage children and families to increase their physical activity. Together we hope to improve the health of the families and communities we serve.”

“As a not-for-profit health plan headquartered in San Francisco, we’re committed to helping people in the community live healthier and happier lives. We are excited to work with San Francisco and Anthem to host Play Streets events that encourage kids to play and be active—a key step on the road to a healthier lifestyle,” says Ronda Wilkin, Manager, Corporate Community Involvement for Blue Shield of California.

“Sunday Streets has emerged as a nationally recognized program that provides car-free space on city streets across San Francisco. Due to its great success, the current demand for Sunday Streets outpaces our capacity to reach every community that wants to host these events. Play Streets for All is a simple, straightforward solution that will help make more of our streets available for kids of all ages to enjoy in safe, fun and healthy ways,” says SFMTA Director of Transportation, Ed Reiskin.

The impact on activity rates from Play Streets for All is expected to be significant. Pioneer programs have already shown that when given the choice between participating in a Play Streets program or a sedentary activity, the majority of children chose to be active outdoors. The benefits go beyond children’s health and foster a greater sense of community. Local economies can profit from the increased foot traffic that Play Streets bring to the businesses in the area, and communities can feel safer with more neighbors watching over the street.

“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 San Francisco, Anthem Blue Cross, and Blue Shield of California are proactively tackling this challenge by creating new Play Streets. We can’t wait to see the initiative in action—to see kids running around these new 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 San Francisco can be found online at For future updates, visit

About Anthem Blue Cross:

Anthem Blue Cross is the trade name of Blue Cross of California. Anthem Blue Cross and Anthem Blue Cross Life and Health Insurance Company are independent licensees of the Blue Cross Association®. ANTHEM is a registered trademark of Anthem Insurance Companies, Inc. The Blue Cross name and symbol are registered marks of the Blue Cross Association. Additional information about Anthem Blue Cross and Anthem Blue Cross Life and Health Insurance Company is available at Also, follow us on Twitter at, on Facebook at, or visit our YouTube channel at

About Blue Shield of California

Blue Shield of California, an independent member of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, is a not-for-profit health plan with 3.3 million members and 5,000 employees. Founded in 1939 and headquartered in San Francisco, Blue Shield of California provides health, life, dental, vision and Medicare insurance and health care service plans in California, has one of the largest provider networks, and $9.7 billion in annual revenue. In 2012, Blue Shield of California was named one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies. Since 2005, the company has contributed more than $200 million to Blue Shield of California Foundation, one of BusinessWeek's most generous corporate foundations. Contact your local agent or broker about Blue Shield of California products and services, or visit

San Francisco Sunday Streets started in 2008 as a way to combat obesity and build community by providing miles of car-free streets lined with a range of free physical activities to inspire residents and visitors to get out and be active in San Francisco. Routes connected underserved communities where incidents of obesity and related ailments caused by lack of exercise and poor diet are high and opportunities for physical activity are lacking.

As of 2012, Sunday Streets organizers have produced 36 Sunday Streets events using eight unique routes that include more than 20 San Francisco neighborhoods. Along the way, Sunday Streets has emerged as a nationally recognized open streets program that is considered a model for other cities looking to create open streets program. Play Streets for All is the newest program element of this popular series.

About San Francisco Beautiful

San Francisco Beautiful is the only organization improving all of San Francisco public spaces. San Francisco Beautiful partners with community organizations, neighborhood groups, city agencies, and concerned citizens to enhance the quality of life in San Francisco. Through grant making, civic advocacy and community partnerships, San Francisco Beautiful works to create a more livable, healthy and beautiful city for all communities. With 65 years of experience of community organizing and education programs, San Francisco Beautiful is thrilled to lead a series of neighborhood training workshops for Play Streets for All, where communities will develop the capacity to build their own unique Play Streets events. For more information about San Francisco Beautiful, please visit, or follow us on

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 and follow PHA on Twitter @PHAnews.

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; connect with BCBSA on Facebook; check out BCBSA videos on YouTube; or follow BCBSA on Twitter.

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