Friday, February 1, 2013

HEROES Fighting Against Childhood Obesity

From the First Lady to this season’s Biggest Loser, the subject of childhood obesity is getting high-profile attention - and rightly so! Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, bringing with it a rise in obesity-related preventable medical conditions in children that aren’t normally seen until adulthood – elevated cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.

These diseases come along with a huge cost to both our children and our health system. Former Surgeon General Richard Carmona summed up the severity of the childhood obesity epidemic when he stated,Because of the increasing rates of obesity, unhealthy eating habits and physical inactivity, we may see the first generation that will be less healthy and have a shorter life expectancy than their parents."

As a mom, this statement really scared me.  As parents, all we want is for our children to live long, happy, healthy lives…longer, happier and healthier than ours. To think that might not be possible for a whole generation due to a preventable disease is unacceptable!

At UnitedHealthcare, we’re proud to be part of the fight against childhood obesity with our HEROES program - a wellness initiative we developed with YSA (Youth Service America) to encourage young people, working with educators and youth leaders in their communities, to create and implement walking, running or hiking programs. The program provides grants of up to $1,000 to fund youth-led projects that include both an activity element and a service component that increases awareness, provides direct service, enables advocacy on behalf of a cause, or features youth philanthropy around the issue of childhood obesity. This year’s grant recipients began Jan. 21, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service and will end on Global Youth Service Days, April 26-28.

This year, we’ve provided more than $175,000 in HEROES grants to nearly 200 schools and nonprofit organizations nationwide. Locally, in Pennsylvania and Delaware, our HEROES are:
·         The Allegheny Valley YMCA, Natrona Heights - The “Moon Walk Challenge” for students in Allegheny and Butler counties will combine fitness and education. During the course of the program, students will walk a combined total of 2,160 miles, which is equal to the diameter of the moon.
·         Northern Cambria High School - the Family, Community and Career Leaders of America (FCCLA) group’s 45 high school students will plan “old school” physical activities such as hula hoop contests, wheel barrow races and sack races and share nutritional information at North Cambria school and community throughout the year.
·         Campus Community School in Dover received a grant to implement running programs for three groups. One will consist of a running club for students who will train together twice a week for a 5K run. Another group of students will take part in running activities for 40 minutes a week during “Club Time,” and a third group of staff and students will participate in a “Couch to 5K” program.
·         The Delaware Adolescent Program, Inc. (DAPI) in Wilmington received a grant to support prenatal and family health by adding exercise planning to its nutrition program for pregnant women and their families.
I congratulate these programs and the children behind them. They are standing up for themselves and their peers by saying “no” to a shortened, unhealthy life. We should all take a page from their book and learn to live healthier, more active lives. Working together is the best chance we have to get childhood obesity under control!

A complete list of grant winners and their projects is available online at

Exercise is always more fun in a group!

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