Quick: recite the alphabet. Did you sing the song in your head? Chances are the ABCs and dozens of other nursery rhymes and songs learned in school are deeply imprinted in your memory. Teaching through music is a tried and true way to help children learn and remember new things. Watch any elementary school classroom and you’re likely to find students are more engaged with learning a song than a lecture from the front of the classroom.
Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Jersey, through The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, has applied this concept to teaching local students about the importance of wellness and the health risks of obesity. This innovative health education program is part of The Power of Blue – Blue Cross Blue Shield companies’ commitment to making a difference in the health of the communities we serve.
The initiative centers on “Austin the Unstoppable,” a musical comedy by George Street Playhouse, which was underwritten by The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey. Now in its third year, the play is on a statewide tour that travels to 70 New Jersey schools each year, reaching more than 26,600 students, primarily fourth through eighth graders.
The fun, upbeat musical addresses obesity and wellness through a plot that focuses on 11-year-old Austin, whose family faces lifestyle challenges after Austin’s mother is diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. During the musical, students learn the benefits of a healthy diet and exercise.
The production provides information and strategies for students, families and schools to use in the prevention and control of obesity and other chronic diseases. The play encourages and empowers students to develop healthy habits like increasing physical activity, eating more fruits and vegetables, decreasing consumption of sugary drinks and spending less time in front of the television.
The “Austin the Unstoppable” tour also includes pre- and post-play activities and supplementary classroom materials to enhance the student experience. The production was developed in collaboration with the New Jersey Department of Health’s ShapingNJ program, a state partnership for nutrition, physical activity and obesity prevention.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies are enacting The Power of Blue across the U.S. to improve healthcare access, enable healthier living, and improve healthcare quality and affordability to give families more security – and more freedom – as they look to the future. To learn about other ways Blue Cross Blue Shield companies are extending The Power of Blue, download the full Investing in America’s Health report.