PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 25, 2012 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Independence Blue Cross Foundation today announced a significant commitment to improving child wellness in the region with the creation of the groundbreaking IBC Foundation Healthy Futures Initiative. The three-year, nearly $2 million Healthy Futures is a comprehensive, collaborative approach to making a measurable difference in child wellness.
"It is with great enthusiasm that we announce the launch of the Independence Blue Cross Foundation Healthy Futures Initiative," said Independence Blue Cross President and CEO Daniel J. Hilferty. "One year ago this month, we started the IBC Foundation with the goal of transforming health care through innovation in the communities we serve. 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 urgent need for action in improving child wellness is clear. Nationally, approximately 17% of children and adolescents ages 2 to 19 years are obese. In southeastern PA, 42.5% of children aged 6 to 12 are obese or overweight. In Philadelphia, that percentage increases to 50%. Obese children and adolescents are likely to remain obese as adults and are therefore at greater risk for health conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, specific types of cancer, and osteoarthritis. The obesity epidemic costs our nation approximately $190 billion a year in additional medical spending.
The IBC Foundation will meet this challenge head on with Healthy Futures, which addresses three critical components of 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 of school through programming that complements existing school fitness curriculum. Get Fit will also recognize and reward children who have achieved fitness and key health goals.
- Finally, 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 will use Health eTools for Schools®, an award-wining software application that captures health data, and a dedicated program evaluator who will collect health data and measure outcomes. The goals for Stay Well include decreasing the percentage of students with high BMI, decreasing student diabetes and blood pressure, increasing student nutritional awareness, and increasing the percentage of students in compliance with mandatory screenings. Findings from this three-year initiative will be shared broadly with health care professionals as a way to help develop other innovative approaches to improving child wellness.
"The IBC Foundation is delighted to have the opportunity to lead a collaborative, multi-faceted initiative toward a shared goal in combating rising child obesity rates and improving community health and wellness. 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," said Lorina Marshall-Blake, President of the IBC Foundation. "In the past year alone, the IBC Foundation has awarded more than 80 grants, totaling more than $3.6 million, to care for our most vulnerable, enhance health care delivery and build healthy communities. Today's announcement extends our continued commitment for the health and wellness of our entire region.
Hilferty and Marshall-Blake were joined at the Healthy Futures launch by representatives from three major partners the Foundation will work with on each program component: Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), the Philadelphia Union, and the Vetri Foundation for Children.
For the "Stay Well" component, the IBC Foundation will partner with CHOP, the oldest, largest and top ranked children's hospital in the world 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," stated 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."
For the "Get Fit" component, the Foundation will partner with the Philadelphia Union, a Major League Soccer team,to implement school fitness programs for grade school children in partnering schools. Through this partnership, the 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 & 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."
Finally, for the "Eat Right" component, the Foundation will partner with the Vetri Foundation for Childrento implement 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. The Healthy Futures launch was hosted at People for People Charter School, an existing Eatiquette site that has seen a transformation in student behavior and wellness since adopting the program.
"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 Vetri, 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 their own health, they influence their families, and they become a voice for better choices in their communities. This support from the IBC Foundation will help bring this connection to thousands of families in southeastern Pennsylvania, and we could not be more excited."
The Healthy Futures model will be implemented in full at one pilot school in Philadelphia, and various components will be implemented at four other schools throughout southeastern Pennsylvania.
(Independence Blue Cross, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, is the primary contributor for the Independence Blue Cross Foundation.)
About the Independence Blue Cross Foundation
Launched in October 2011, the Independence Blue Cross Foundation, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, is an independent, private foundation whose mission is to transform health care through innovation in the communities it serves. The IBC Foundation and Independence Blue Cross are both committed to improving the health and wellness of the people of southeastern Pennsylvania. The foundation targets the following areas of impact:
- Caring for our most vulnerable: Supporting nonprofit health clinics that deliver quality, cost-effective primary, medical, and dental care to uninsured and underinsured people.
- Enhancing health care delivery: Strengthening the nursing workforce through education, career development, and research.
- Building healthy communities: Partnering with community leaders and programs to address community health and wellness needs.