JACKSON, Miss.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--UnitedHealthcare and Mississippi 4-H Youth Development are expanding a successful partnership called Eat4-Health that helps tackle obesity by promoting healthy eating and active lifestyles among youth and families.
UnitedHealthcare is providing Alcorn University Cooperative Extension, which administers 4-H programs in Mississippi, a $40,000 grant to support youth healthy-living programs. A portion of the grant is being used to purchase new pedal-powered blender bikes for fun, energetic events where young people can create their own healthy smoothies through exercise.
The specially made stationary bikes, equipped with a blender mechanism that makes smoothies when pedaled, were unveiled during 4-H Day at the Mississippi State Fair where 4-Hers, community leaders and UnitedHealthcare mascot Dr. Health E. Hound cheered on young fairgoers who enjoyed a healthy snack in return for a little “sweat equity.”
At the fairgrounds, 4-H youth trained through the “Eat4-Health” program also distributed healthy smoothie recipe cards, helped hundreds of young people and their families make their own nutritious trail mix, and led fun fitness exercises designed to burn calories and promote health.
The $40,000 grant, along with the smoothie bikes and other exercise equipment, will be used to support community events and programs this summer through spring 2015 in which youth and families can learn about easy ways to promote healthy lifestyles. Recipe cards, educational information and other resources will be distributed as part of the program. The goal is to encourage young people and their families to eat more nutritious foods and exercise regularly.
Alcorn University Cooperative Extension and Mississippi 4-H are working together to implement the grant in collaboration with and in support of U.S. Department of Agriculture nutrition education programs. A plan has been developed to provide innovative, hands-on learning to target underserved communities in the state, led by 4-H and Extension educators, volunteers and teen leaders to encourage youth and community participation.
“Mississippi 4-H is excited to team up again with UnitedHealthcare to create hands-on opportunities for 4-H youth to promote active, healthy lifestyles in our communities,” said Manola Erby, Mississippi 4-H Youth Specialist. “With the additional grant dollars and new pedal-powered bikes we now have innovative, new resources to help kids stay active and eat healthy.”
UnitedHealthcare employees will help organize and host many of these events, and planning and implementing projects that lead to positive, sustainable change at the community and individual level. This is the fourth year the company has partnered with Mississippi 4-H to administer the partnership, providing $100,000 in support since 2011.
“UnitedHealthcare is grateful for the opportunity to expand our Eat-4Health partnership in Mississippi, which is helping reach so many young people through innovative healthy-living programs and educational events,” said Jocelyn Chisholm Carter, president, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Mississippi. “These smoothie bikes provide an energetic way to engage our youth and demonstrate that being healthy can be fun.”
UnitedHealthcare is providing $520,000 to National 4-H Council to support youth healthy-living programs. In addition to Mississippi, other state 4-H programs receiving grants include Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, New York, Nebraska, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin. Eat4-Health, which began in 2011, has already reached more than 210,000 young people and families across nine states through a positive campaign that has trained thousands of 4-H teen youth health ambassadors to promote healthy lifestyles in their communities.
According to America’s Health Rankings®, an annual comprehensive assessment of the nation’s health on a state-by-state basis, obesity is a leading risk factor for diabetes, heart disease and many cancers. Obesity continues to be at epidemic levels and is one of the fastest-growing health challenges confronting the nation. Mississippi ranks 49th in obesity; nearly 16 percent of youth and 35 percent of adults are estimated to be obese. The report can be viewed and downloaded at www.americashealthrankings.org.
4-H, the nation’s largest youth development and empowerment organization, cultivates confident kids who tackle the issues that matter most in their communities right now. In the United States, 4-H programs empower six million young people through the 109 land-grant universities and Cooperative Extension in more than 3,000 local offices serving every county and parish in the country. Outside the United States, independent, country-led 4-H organizations empower one million young people in more than 50 countries. National 4-H Council is the private sector, non-profit partner of the Cooperative Extension System and 4-H National Headquarters located at the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) within the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Learn more about 4-H at 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 800,000 physicians and care professionals, and 6,000 hospitals and other care facilities nationwide. Globally, UnitedHealthcare serves more than 45 million people in health benefits and is one of the businesses of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), a diversified Fortune 50 health and well-being company.