Posted by Elizabeth Casey
You don’t need a medical professional to tell you that kids have a lot of energy. Whether they’re asking a dozen questions or dancing around the house, most children have a natural inclination toward constant activity. As adults, our challenge is to provide them with an outlet for that energy, and help teach them to continue to lead an active lifestyle into their teens and adulthood.
Blue Cross Blue Shield believe that we have a responsibility to educate the next generation on the importance of physical activity and a nutritious diet to allow them to lead healthy lives in the future. We believe that active children grow up to be active adults, and that learning healthy habits at a young age goes a long way towards maintaining a healthy lifestyle as you grow older.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that young people aged 6–17 years participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily. Here’s a look at how several Blue Cross Blue Shield companies are enacting The Power of Blue – The Blues® commitment to creating healthier communities – by working with schools in their local communities to help ensure our next generation is a healthy, active one.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Arizona – Keeping Arizona communities healthy and strong is a top priority at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Arizona. That priority is the driver behind the company’s support of the Power1 Kids After School Program, a 24-week comprehensive health and fitness program that seeks to teach kids and their parents healthy habits and behaviors.
The program was founded upon the belief that teaching healthy habits at home and at school – the two places children spend most of their time – is the most effective way to reinforce the positive behaviors.
The program works with more than 200 fourth and fifth grade students in seven Phoenix schools. Through an integrated healthy living curriculum, the program provides a safe, fun, active and culturally-oriented environment for students and parents to undergo health education and practice active lifestyles, as well as to combat degenerative and preventable diseases like cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Because the program focuses on family, both students and parents together learn important lessons for lifelong health and wellness. And, with help from Arizona State Senator Robert Meza, Phoenix City Councilman Tom Simplot and Blue Cross Blue and Shield of Arizona, no one is turned away due to a financial challenge.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota – Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota is encouraging children to remain active by focusing on recess. The company’s program, Recess Yes!, launched in September 2012 and aims to encourage physical activity and movement in North Dakota elementary schools.
All 4,600 of the state’s kindergarten through fifth grade teachers received a Recess YES! Kit, which contained items like a CD of original music for teachers to play to get kids moving during classroom breaks, a poster to hang in the classroom, tips to incorporate movement into lesson plans and a commitment sheet for students to sign to promise to be more active.
The kits were very well received by teachers and school administrators, and many even requested additional resources. The Recess YES! materials succeeded in encouraging physical activity and increased movement in schools across the state, while also raising awareness of childhood obesity.
Recess YES! is part of BCBSND’s statewide “The Official Sponsor of Recess” platform, which advocates, promotes and supports North Dakotans striving to live healthy lives.
Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield – On the east coast, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield is working to address the same issues that appear in Arizona and North Dakota. The Highmark Foundation awarded two-year grants to 13 schools to create programs that make systematic changes involving nutrition and physical activity for nearly 8,000 students. The grants enabled local schools to establish environments that support healthy eating and physical activity, earning them the designation of Super+ schools.
Through the Super+ School Challenge program, schools developed integrative approaches involving physical activity and nutrition with measurable outcomes. Those include things like improvements in student fitness levels, endurance, strength and flexibility; increases in minutes per week that students engage in moderate to vigorous physical activity for an extended period of time; and positive changes in eating habits through available nutritional choices.
The Super+ schools reported increased levels of physical activity and nutritional balance. One school even saw minutes of physical activity for its students double in one semester! Ten schools went so far as to make curriculum changes that they plan to continue in order to sustain the program and its positive results beyond the funding period.
To learn more about these and other Blue Cross Blue Shield community investments, download the full Investing inAmerica’s Health report.