UnitedHealthcare and Sesame Workshop Launch Bilingual Childhood Asthma Awareness and Lead-Poisoning Prevention Initiatives

August 18, 2011
  • “A is for Asthma” and “Lead Away!” programs feature tips and activities from Sesame Street characters Elmo, Grover, Bert and Zoe to help millions of kids stay healthy

UnitedHealthcare and Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street, are launching two child health initiatives: A is for Asthma, an awareness program, and Lead Away!, a lead-poisoning prevention program.

These newly updated programs are designed to help children and their families learn about these health issues and promote positive healthy habits.

Both initiatives are part of UnitedHealthcare’s multiyear partnership with Sesame Workshop focusing on the Healthy Habits for Life Initiative, which offers tools and resources to help parents and caregivers develop healthy habits and support children’s healthy growth. In addition to the asthma and lead initiatives, UnitedHealthcare is an on-air sponsor of Sesame Street and supports Food for Thought: Eating Well on a Budget, which provides information to help families make affordable and healthy food choices.

“Sesame Workshop is pleased to extend its partnership with UnitedHealthcare to provide families with free resources and information that can help them keep their children healthy,” said Gary E. Knell, president and CEO of Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street.

A is for Asthma: Grover and Big Bird help families learn more about asthma

A is for Asthma is a bilingual education initiative that helps increase families’ understanding and awareness of childhood asthma. The program provides simple tips and supporting resources for children and their families to recognize asthma triggers and manage asthma symptoms.

Program materials, including videos, activity sheets and a newsletter that feature Sesame Street characters such as Grover and Big Bird, are available in English and Spanish at sesamestreet.org/asthma.

“Asthma is on the rise, especially among children living in lower-income households,” said Russell C. Petrella, Ph.D., president of UnitedHealthcare Community & State, the country’s largest Medicaid managed care company. “Our A is for Asthma program with Sesame Workshop offers easy-to-understand information and tips to help children and their families manage this condition and lead healthier and more active lives.”

According to the American Lung Association, asthma is the leading chronic illness among children in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 7.1 million children, or roughly one in ten, suffer from asthma. In recent years, the number of children with asthma has been on the rise, especially among minority populations and low-income households, which may be more likely to contain common asthma triggers like mold, mildew, fragrance, dust and animal dander.

Lead Away!: Bert and Ernie help families learn about lead-poisoning prevention and lead testing

Lead Away! is a bilingual education initiative that helps increase families’ understanding and awareness about the health risks of lead. The program teaches parents and children effective strategies to avoid lead exposure through simple tips and activities that can be easily incorporated into everyday routines.

Program materials, including videos, activity sheets and a newsletter that feature Sesame Street characters such as Bert and Ernie, are available in English and Spanish at sesamestreet.org/lead.

Lead poisoning is one of the most common environmental health problems for children under the age of six. The CDC reports that 250,000 children in the United States between the ages of one and five have especially high levels of lead in the blood. Lead exposure can occur through a variety of sources, including dust, soil, old ceramic or pewter cookware, old pipes, and toys that have not been manufactured or shipped according to regulations.

Although lead-based paint was banned in the United States in 1978, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s National Survey of Lead and Allergens in Housing estimated that about 40 percent of all permanently occupied U.S. housing units still contain some lead-based paint.

More information about A is for Asthma and Lead Away! is available online at www.sesamestreet.org.

Tips for Avoiding Asthma Triggers

Here are a few simple tips to reduce asthma triggers in the home:

  • Keep your home clear of mold and mildew. Routinely check for mold and mildew especially in damp areas, like the bathroom or basement.
  • Use fragrance-free products. Also, consider getting rid of things that have strong smells, such as perfumes or strong cleaners.
  • Cut down on dust. Dust and dust mites are common asthma triggers. Instead of carpets, use bare wood floors or small area rugs, which can help cut down on dust in your home. Wipe surfaces every day with a damp rag to get rid of dust. Even stuffed toys and security blankets can trap dust and dust mites. Try to keep only two favorite items on your child’s bed, and wash them weekly.
  • Think about keeping fish or reptiles as pets. Exposure to the animal dander shed by furry and feathered animals can trigger asthma.

Source: “A is for Asthma”, a national education initiative developed by UnitedHealthcare and Sesame Workshop. For more information, please visit sesamestreet.org/asthma.

Tips for Avoiding Lead Exposure

Try these ideas to keep your family away from lead:

  • Stay away from peeling paint. Set up places for your child to play that are free from peeling paint. Lead-based paint can crack, peel and crumble into dust that children may ingest while eating or breathing.
  • Stay away from dust. Lead from soil or deteriorating lead-based paint can be found in dust and dirt. Leave shoes at the door and regularly wet-wipe floors and dusty surfaces to keep lead out of the house.
  • Wash hands before you eat. Leaded dust can be transferred from children’s hands to their mouths. Wash their hands with soap and warm water frequently—especially before eating—for at least 20.
  • Check your child’s toys. Children often put their toys in their mouths. Look at your child’s toys to see if they are dusty or have any chipped or damaged areas. Also visit the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission at http://www.cpsc.gov to learn about toy recalls, including recalls related to lead prevention.

Source: Lead Away!, a national education initiative developed by UnitedHealthcare and Sesame Workshop. For more information, please visit sesamestreet.org/lead.

About UnitedHealthcare
UnitedHealthcare is dedicated to helping people nationwide live healthier lives by simplifying the health care experience, meeting consumer health and wellness needs, and sustaining trusted relationships with care providers. The company offers the full spectrum of health benefit programs for individuals, employers and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and contracts directly with more than 650,000 physicians and care professionals and 5,000 hospitals nationwide. UnitedHealthcare serves more than 38 million people and is one of the businesses of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), a diversified Fortune 50 health and well-being company.

About Sesame Workshop
Sesame Workshop is the nonprofit educational organization that revolutionized children’s television programming with the landmark Sesame Street. The Workshop produces local Sesame Street programs, seen in over 150 countries, and other acclaimed shows to help bridge the literacy gap including The Electric Company. Beyond television, the Workshop produces content for multiple media platforms on a wide range of issues including literacy, health and military deployment. Initiatives meet specific needs to help young children and families develop critical skills, acquire healthy habits and build emotional strength to prepare them for lifelong learning. Learn more at www.sesameworkshop.org.  

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