Texas 4-H through Prairie View A&M University’s Cooperative Extension Program and UnitedHealthcare announced a new partnership to promote healthy living and empower youth to help fight 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 10 states, including Texas.
At the partnership launch in Houston, more than 500 4-H youth, families and community leaders from Harris County came together for a “Back to School-Back to Health” event to promote health, fitness and healthy living. UnitedHealthcare’s mascot Dr. Health E. Hound was on hand to lead participants in healthy exercises and participate in gardening activities. Representatives from UnitedHealthcare presented a $30,000 check to Prairie View A&M University officials and 4-H youth to launch the program.
The event took place at The Last Organic Outpost, a Houston area community garden, and featured hands-on gardening demonstrations, healthy-cooking classes and educational presentations by 4-H members on making healthy food choices. Exercise activities included Zumba and swing out dancing classes, a fitness challenge, and swing out dancing routines that encouraged attendees to participate in simple, fun group activities designed to burn calories and promote health. Participating families received bags of fresh produce donated by the Houston Food Bank and Target Hunger.
“Establishing healthy habits is a step toward healthy lifestyles,” Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples said. “Private-sector partnerships like Eat4-Health are great examples of how we can help reverse the escalating trend toward obesity and the costly effect it is having on our nation. I commend the Eat4-Health partnership for empowering our youth to make healthy living a priority. This project complements my initiative, the 3E’s of Healthy Living - Education, Exercise and Eating Right – which calls on parents and children to adopt healthy eating choices and lifestyle habits. These positive initiatives benefit our personal health as well as our state’s economic health.”
Eat4-Health builds on UnitedHealthcare’s successful partnership with National 4-H Council that began last year in Florida, Mississippi and Texas. The campaign is expanding to Arizona, Louisiana, Nebraska, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Tennessee. Each participating state 4-H organization 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. The partnership in Texas is being administered through the Prairie View A&M University Cooperative Extension Program.
“Prairie View A&M University is proud to partner with UnitedHealthcare again this year to promote healthy living among 4-H youth and their families,” said Dr. Alton B. Johnson, Associate Dean of the College of Agriculture and Human Sciences at Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU) and Administrator of the Cooperative Extension Program. “We are excited to continue this important work together and use this grant to support 4-H programs that help educate communities about these important messages. Today’s event is a perfect example of how we can make a positive impact.”
“We are fortunate to once again work together with 4-H’ers here in Texas to help make a difference in the lives of so many families in the state,” said Norine Yukon, CEO of UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Texas. “UnitedHealthcare and 4-H look forward to continuing this partnership that is harnessing the energy and excitement of 4-H youth to promote healthy living.”
Participating 4-H state programs receiving a grant are developing 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.
“The partnership with 4-H and UnitedHealthcare is significant because it’s important that we play a part in educating people about the alarming rate of childhood obesity in our communities,” said Dr. Rukeia Draw-Hood, 4-H Program Leader for the Prairie View A&M University Cooperative Extension Program.
As part of the Eat4-Health campaign, each state is organizing a Youth Summit/Conference to train 4-H youth ambassadors to implement the programs and help reach the 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 or 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 the Youth Development program of Cooperative Extension, a national education system which extends the benefit of land grant universities to citizens across the country. 4-H creates 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. More than 65,000 Texas youth are enrolled members of 4-H community clubs in Texas. Another 850,000 Texas youth get involved in 4-H through special educational opportunities at school, in after school programs, or at neighborhood or youth centers. Texas 4-H programs are conducted through the two land-grant universities in Texas. Prairie View A&M University Cooperative Extension Program and Texas A&M University AgriLife Extension. For more information about 4-H visit http://pvcep.pvamu.edu or www.4-H.org.
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.