Wednesday, March 23, 2011

HealthMPowers Teams-up with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia Foundation to Launch 'Health EmPowers YOU!'

/PRNewswire/ -- Physical education teachers, classroom teachers and school nutrition workers are helping students improve their health-related fitness and eating habits, through a new initiative from HealthMPowers and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia (BCBSGa) Foundation called "Health EmPowers You!"

A school and home-based educational program, Health EmPowers You! addresses the growing childhood obesity epidemic facing Georgia. Currently, Georgia has the second highest obesity rate with 21.3 percent of Georgia's children ages 10 to 17 years old being obese, according to the 2010 report by Trust for America's Youth and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens American's Future 2010. The initiative will be in 41 schools and will educate more than 20,000 students and their families on ways to integrate physical activity and healthy eating into their lives.

"With Georgia's childhood obesity at an astoundingly high rate, it is imperative we implement the necessary programs to help our children succeed by surrounding them with healthy, supportive environments," said Morgan Kendrick, president of BCBSGa. "The program that HealthMPowers has developed will benefit many Georgia children and help set them on a course for a healthy future."

As with all of HealthMPowers' programming, Health EmPowers You! is science-based and uses a comprehensive, hands-on approach to integrate important nutrition, fitness, and physical activity instruction and skill practice into all aspects of the school environment. Educational materials will be provided to physical education teachers, classroom teachers, nutrition directors, other school support, students and parents to teach and reinforce important lessons.

Health EmPowers You! includes:

* Lesson plans, classroom exercise DVDs and educational resources for teachers,
* Heart health physical education equipment for fitness teachers,
* Newsletters and support materials for parents, and
* A tracking system for students.

This fall, per House Bill 229, all schools in Georgia will be required to provide health related fitness assessments as part of a quality physical education program. Physical education teachers will conduct an annual fitness assessment program with students in first through 12th grade in the areas of aerobic capacity, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, and body composition. The schools involved in the initial launch of Health EmPowers You! will have early access to fitness assessment information and can begin programming to improve their students' scores. Teachers from each school are already receiving training on the initiative, equipment and resources for successful program implementation.

"Health education must extend beyond the walls of a school building and infiltrate the home and community environments as well," said Christi Kay, executive director of HealthMPowers. "That is why HealthMPowers provides tools and resources to be used at school and at home – to engage students and help them become health advocates to their families and peers."

Childhood obesity can cause many health and psychological issues, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Short-term consequences can include poor body image and lower test scores at school while long-term consequences can include diabetes, high blood pressure and respiratory ailments. The CDC reports that nearly 75 percent of every health care dollar spent is due to lifestyle choices that result in chronic illness, which now affects one in four Americans.

In fact, today, March 22, 2011, is the American Diabetes Association's "Alert Day," which is held every fourth Tuesday in March. This one-day "wake-up" call asks Americans to take the Diabetes Risk Test to find out if they are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. With Georgia recently being named to the "diabetes belt" by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the information and resources provided by the Health EmPowers You! initiative can be used to help combat this growing epidemic.

According to data collected by HealthMPowers, its programming has been proven to help increase student fruit and vegetable consumption, improve student cardiovascular fitness scores and create better school health policies.

"HealthMPowers has long recognized the connection between healthy schools, healthy students and healthy communities," Kay said. "Our collaboration with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia Foundation will expand HealthMPowers' reach throughout Georgia and provide schools and families with the tools and knowledge needed to engage in healthier behaviors."

Schools in Bibb, Jackson, Barrow and Newton counties are involved in the project.

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