Pennsylvania 4-H and UnitedHealthcare announced a new partnership to promote healthy living by launching a new campaign designed to empower youth to help tackle the nation’s obesity epidemic.
The partnership, called Eat4-Health, is activating thousands of 4-H youth ambassadors to make healthy choices for themselves and encourage friends, families and people in their communities to make positive changes through training, creative programs and educational events. It currently spans ten states, including Pennsylvania.
At the partnership launch in Pennsylvania, UnitedHealthcare’s mascot Dr. Health E. Hound joined 4-H youth at Penn State's Ag Progress Days, the state’s largest outdoor agricultural exposition, to encourage attendees to stay active and eat healthy. By creating spontaneous “Healthy Flash Mobs,” UnitedHealthcare and 4-H were able to get hundreds of attendees to participate in simple, fun group dance and fitness activities designed to burn calories and promote health.
Community leaders, including Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary George Greig, U.S. Representative Glenn Thompson, State Senators John Eichelberger and Gene Yaw, and State Representatives Bryan Barbin, Gordon Denlinger, Pamela DeLissio, Mark Gillen, Deberah Kula, Mark Longietti, Brandon Neuman, Jerry Stern and Mike Tobash, joined in the healthy flash mobs and afterwards participated in an official partnership announcement, where UnitedHealthcare presented a $30,000 check to Pennsylvania 4-H to launch the program.
“This is a tremendously important partnership here in Pennsylvania that showcases how the business community and non-profit sectors are coming together to help solve the nation’s obesity problem,” said Representative Thompson. “I am proud of Pennsylvania 4-H for joining in this creative grassroots approach to forge real solutions to this serious challenge.”
Eat4-Health builds on UnitedHealthcare’s successful partnership with 4-H that began last year in Florida, Mississippi and Texas. The campaign is expanding to Arizona, Louisiana, Nebraska, New York, South Carolina and Tennessee, as well as Pennsylvania. Each 4-H organization in the state is receiving a $30,000 grant funded by UnitedHealthcare to support healthy-living programs, events and other activities administered by 4-H that encourage young people and their families to eat more nutritious foods and exercise regularly.
A component of the Pennsylvania partnership includes 4-H youth competing in “Camp Idol” competitions where they took familiar camping songs and matched them with physical moves that add a healthy twist. The contest winners took part in today’s event, leading the healthy flash mobs with their newly created songs. Dr. Health E. Hound joined the 4-H Idols in encouraging hundreds of exposition attendees to participate in spontaneous group exercises to those songs that brought excitement and energy to the forum. The healthy flash mobs were symbolic of how the partnership is encouraging healthy living in communities across Pennsylvania. Eat4-Health educational materials were also provided to attendees to reinforce those messages.
“Pennsylvania 4-H is pleased to partner with UnitedHealthcare and launch this new campaign to empower youth to help improve the health of their peers, their families and their communities,” said Christy Bartley, Pennsylvania 4-H program leader with Penn State Extension. “4-H youth ambassadors are prepared to work with UnitedHealthcare to make a positive impact on the health and wellness of our nation’s future leaders. Today’s activities are an example of the creativity and excitement 4-H youth are bringing to this campaign.”
“We are fortunate to be able to join with the young people of 4-H in the Eat4-Health program to help make a difference in the lives of so many families in Pennsylvania,” said Heather Cianfrocco, president of UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Pennsylvania. “UnitedHealthcare and 4-H look forward to harnessing the energy and excitement of 4-H youth to promote healthy living.”
Participating 4-H state programs receiving a grant will develop action plans that provide innovative, hands-on learning approaches that target specific community needs in their state. Many of these activities will support healthy-living programs led by 4-H that encourage youth and community participation through events such as health fairs, cooking demonstrations, after-school programs, workshops and educational forums, among others. UnitedHealthcare employees will team up with 4-H at many of these events, assisting with planning and executing projects that lead to positive, sustainable change at the community and individual level.
As part of the Eat4-Health campaign, each state will organize and host a Youth Summit/Conference to train 4-H youth ambassadors to implement programs and reach the program goals in each state. The summits will provide the venue where participants will learn more about nutrition, health and fitness, obtain information on promoting health within their communities, and gain new tools for participating in multisession educational trainings and one-time community activities and events. This teen leadership experience will also serve as a launch to a Teen Ambassadors pledge and prepare 4-H’ers to use their increased healthy-living knowledge and skills to make an impact in their own communities.
Online and printed educational materials will enable participants to learn and commit to making healthier choices. To encourage participation, the campaign will provide simple tips for healthy choices when food shopping, preparing home meals and school lunches, when out with friends or at special occasions.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obesity among children and adolescents has almost tripled since 1980, with nearly one in every three children being overweight or obese. Children from low-income and low-education households are three-times more likely to be obese. America’s Health Rankings®, an annual comprehensive assessment of the nation’s health on a state-by-state basis, indicates that obesity is a leading risk factor for diabetes, heart disease and many cancers. The estimated economic cost of obesity is $270 billion per year.
4-H reaches 6 million youth each year, 2.5 million of whom participate in healthy-living programs that promote nutrition, wellness and physical activities. UnitedHealthcare Community & State serves more than 2.5 million children in 25 states and the District of Columbia. 4-H and UnitedHealthcare share connections with many of the same public sector and community organizations, including state and county governments and school districts.
In 2011 the 4-H UnitedHealthcare partnership reached more than 40,000 youth and families in three states through hundreds of community events and activities that included distributing positive messages about nutrition and wellness. This was accomplished in creative venues such as healthy-cooking demonstrations, fitness camps, youth forums and community family days. These events were designed to empower 4-H youth in the targeted states to help educate their families and people in their communities about the importance of healthy living through more nutritious diets and increased physical activity in their daily lives. The program targeted communities in Florida, Mississippi and Texas with the greatest need for education, outreach and resources.
4-H is a community of six million young people across America learning leadership, citizenship, and life skills. National 4-H Council is the private sector, non-profit partner of 4-H National Headquarters located at the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) within USDA. 4-H programs are implemented by the 111 land-grant universities and the Cooperative Extension System through their 3,100 local Extension offices across the country. Learn more about 4-H at www.4-H.org or follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/4-H.
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.