The Independence Blue Cross Foundation has launched a three-year initiative that focuses on reversing the childhood obesity epidemic.
The nearly $2 million Healthy Futures initiative is a comprehensive, collaborative approach to making a measurable difference in child wellness.
“One year ago this month, we started the IBC Foundation with the goal of transforming health care through innovation in the communities we serve,” IBC President and CEO Daniel J. Hilferty said in a press release.
“By partnering with some of the region’s most respected organizations and adding a new focus on the critical issue of child wellness, the foundation is primed to improve the health and well-being of adults and now children, even more substantially.”
The initiative is being launched at a time when an estimated 50 percent of children aged 6 to 12 in Philadelphia are obese or overweight.
The Healthy Futures initiative has a three-pronged approach to child wellness: nutrition, fitness and preventive health care.
Through the “Eat Right” component, the foundation will help influence childhood eating habits while improving nutritional awareness among children, parents and community stakeholders.
With the “Get Fit” component, the foundation will promote the importance of physical activity both inside and outside the school through programming that complements existing school fitness curriculum.
Through the “Stay Well” component, the foundation will improve school health screening rates through a collaborative school-based health promotion program aimed at reducing the days a child misses school due to diabetes, asthma and unmanaged chronic illness.
“The IBC Foundation is delighted to have the opportunity to lead a collaborative, multifaceted initiative toward a shared goal in combating rising child obesity rates and improving community health and wellness,” said Lorina Marshall-Blake, president of the IBC Foundation.
“We are confident that Healthy Futures can and will make a meaningful difference in our community. Even more important, it can serve as a model for replication in other communities.”
Hilferty and Marshall-Blake were joined at the Healthy Futures launch by representatives from the program’s three major partners, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Union soccer team and the Vetri Foundation for Children.
The foundation will partner with CHOP for the “Stay Well” component on a pilot to create a health care team within a targeted school. That team will enhance existing school services to guarantee that all required health screenings and physicals are completed and offer health promotion services as needed.
“Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia wants to congratulate the IBC Foundation for creating this extraordinary Healthy Futures project and say how proud we are to partner with them on this groundbreaking initiative,” said CHOP CEO Dr. Steven Altschuler.
“We strive to provide coordinated care and linkages between our services and those provided by a family’s community, including schools, local physicians and other agencies. The IBC Foundation Healthy Futures Initiative and its comprehensive approach to improving child wellness are consistent with this focus.”
The goals for “Stay Well” include decreasing the percentage of students with high BMI (body mass index) decreasing student diabetes and blood pressure, increasing student nutritional awareness and increasing the percentage of students in compliance with mandatory screenings.
The foundation will use Health eTools for Schools, a software application that captures health data and a program evaluator who will collect data and measure outcomes.
Findings from this initiative will be shared with healthcare professionals as a way to help develop other innovative approaches to improving child wellness.
For the “Get Fit” component, the foundation will partner with the Philadelphia Union to hold fitness programs for grade school children in partnering schools. Through this partnership, the Philadelphia Union will also conduct community fitness events as well as provide tools to promote exercise and soccer in select schools in southeastern Pennsylvania.
“The Philadelphia Union aims to have a positive impact on children with respect to their character development, academic performance and physical well-being,” said Nick Sakiewicz, CEO and operating partner of the Philadelphia Union.
“We want to help develop the young children of today as potential soccer players, but more importantly, as people with healthy minds and bodies. We could have no greater partner in this endeavor than the IBC Foundation and its Healthy Futures.”
For the “Eat Right” component, the foundation will partner with the Vetri Foundation for Children to launch its Eatiquette program at five schools in the next two years. The Eatiquette program equips schools to prepare and serve nutritious meals to children, educates students and parents on the importance of nutrition and benefits of eating well and promotes life skills such as teamwork and responsibility.
“Eatiquette works to transform a child’s lunch from the traditional cafeteria assembly line to an environment where children sit at round tables, pass plates of food to one another and experience social interaction and communication,” said Marc Verti, founder of the Vetri Foundation.
“We know that when children make the connection between healthy eating and healthy living, they then make better decisions about the own health, they influence their families and they become a voice for better choices in their communities.
The Healthy Futures model will implemented in full at one pilot school in Philadelphia and various components will be launched at four other schools throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania.
Launched in 2011, the IBC Foundation has a mission to transform healthcare through innovation in the communities it serves. The foundation has awarded more than $3.6 million in grants.