Friday, May 17 2013 (Akron, Ohio) - With childhood obesity in the U.S. on a staggering increase, it is projected that more than 30 percent of Ohio third graders are overweight. To help educate Akron-area children about healthy living, a renowned children’s author will read to 140 first and second graders and special education students at Harris Elementary School, 400 West Market Street, Akron, Ohio (ZIP: 44303) on Monday, May 20 from 1:00 to 3p.m.
Award-winning author Michelle Bain is partnering with Buckeye Community Health Plans and its parent company, Centene Corporation to curb the national trend toward childhood obesity by teaching young children about healthy living through engaging and entertaining books. Bain, who has written 75 books, will read from her book, Adventures through Fitropolis, a comic-book style publication, about healthy eating.
Children in the Medicaid system are most seriously impacted by the obesity epidemic according to Dr. Brad Lucas, Chief Medical Officer for Buckeye Community Health Plan. The Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System estimates that one of seven low-income, preschool-aged children is obese.
Since the program’s launch in 2009, thousands of students have read about Thumbs Up Johnnie, a cowboy whose adventures are described in comic-style books such as Adventures through Fitropolis, the book Bain will read to the Harris Elementary students.
Other books by Bain include Smokey Yuckpak (about the dangers of smoking); and Adventures from Sugarland (about diabetes). Because the series is so popular, Centene commissioned the creation of another character, Darby Boingg, a wallaby who wears a fanny pack to carry healthy snacks, medications, and exercise equipment. In 2013, Darby Boingg will explore the topic of bullying. In Fitropolis, Johnny (and now Darby) learns lessons like “Only snack when you are hungry” and or play hopscotch.” The characters Skip Drive-Thru, Spike Armstrong, Constance Eatrite, Claire Springs, and Snack-King guide Johnnie and Darby on adventures in healthy eating and exercise.
The program is achieving impressive results. It reached more than 14,000 children in seven states in 2010 and expanded to 22,000 children in 10 states in 2011. Test outcomes from reading events show significant learning by the children about healthy food, drinks, and the importance of physical activity. (Source: Centene Adventures in Good Food Choices and Exercise, America’s Health Insurance Plans, summer, 2011.)
Because there are so many factors contributing to obesity, such as a child’s daily routine, the kind of food served at home and at school, and the amount of physical activity the child is able to get every day, many of the programs that target childhood obesity are community-based.
Many communities around the country are addressing the issue through health fairs, farmer’s markets, school-based interventions, and through working with local governments to make more recreational space available and support community design that increases walkability. Buckeye Community Health Plans and Centene are taking the community involvement approach into the schools with this program targeting elementary school children during at time when research shows that life-long habits are most easily developed.
“We believe strongly that the fight against childhood obesity will dramatically impact the long-term health of these children and of our country,”adds Dr. Lucas. “Engaging these children in adopting healthy habits by making the learning process fun is critical to tackling the childhood obesity crisis. We believe – and results support – that this education process is key to helping kids grow into healthy adults.”
About Buckeye Community Health Plan:
Buckeye Community Health Plan is a managed care plan that has been providing services in Ohio since 2004. Buckeye is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Centene Corporation, a leading multi-line healthcare enterprise offering both core Medicaid and specialty services. Information regarding Buckeye is available via the Internet at www.bchpohio.com. Buckeye can be followed on Twitter as Buckeye_Health.
MORE: Video B-Roll and still photography is available for use without attribution of the event. Spokespersons for Buckeye are available for comment.
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