Arizona: Here, one in five children is overweight or obese. Among Hispanic children, the numbers are higher: one in three. A two-year $100,000 Aetna Foundation grant enables the Tucson Medical Center to bring the program Girls on the Run to its community. The 12-week, school-based program helps girls ages 8-11 develop self-respect and healthful lifestyles through running and small group discussions.
California: The Aetna Foundation’s $50,000 grant to Students Run LA. helps this nonprofit challenge 3,000 mostly Hispanic at-risk secondary school students to experience the benefits of goal-setting, character development, adult mentoring and improved health by providing them with a truly life-changing experience: training for and completing a marathon.
Connecticut: Thousands of Connecticut girls are learning how to eat right and be fit, thanks to the program Live Healthy, Lead Healthy offered by Girl Scouts of Connecticut and made possible in part by a $75,000 grant from the Aetna Foundation. The program reaches 6,000 girls between the ages of 5 and 18 at the organization's 12 summer camps and through local Girl Scout troop activities throughout the state. The program expands the Girls Scouts' health and fitness offerings, including providing more nutritious meals and snacks, a wider array of noncompetitive physical activities, and guided discussions about healthful food, stress management and lifestyle choices.
Florida: MicheLee Puppets, Inc. uses puppets in an interactive play to engage and encourage
elementary school children to eat well and boost their physical activity. The Aetna Foundation has provided more than $240,000 to the EXTREME Health Challenge program since 2006, reaching some 300,000 students in 650 schools.
Georgia: Serving Greater Atlanta, the Center Helping Obesity In Children End Successfully, Inc, or CHOICES, provides a parent and child resource center for children who have been clinically diagnosed or are at risk of obesity. Its multi-faceted weight-management program includes nutrition education, physical fitness programs and training, peer socialization, community involvement and lifestyle changes. Since 2007, the Aetna Foundation has provided $230,000 in support.
Illinois: The Aetna Foundation’s $10,000 grant to The Joffrey Ballet helps fund the renowned dance company’s Middle School Dance Clubs program in Chicago public schools. Serving about 400 primarily African-American and Hispanic students in grades 5 – 8, The Joffrey Ballet’s in-school program offers fitness through dance, allowing students to have fun while engaging in high-level physical activities twice a week and learning healthful eating habits. Underscoring the role that dance can play in motivating and educating young people, the program fosters self-expression, artistic creativity, discipline, and a sense of accomplishment as the students come together for a final performance at the end of the school year during a week-long dance finale.
Maryland: A $25,000 grant from the Aetna Foundation to the Baltimore Medical System is helping about 200 low-income, underserved patients with heart disease risk factors access obesity reduction services, such as nutrition education, cooking classes and fitness programs to improve their health. A team of Community Health Workers visiting patients in their homes will help patients overcome language difficulties and other barriers to accessing a wide variety of free and low-cost community programs in their immediate neighborhoods.
New Jersey: About 1,800 fourth, fifth and sixth graders and their teachers are taking a virtual walk up and down New Jersey as part of a childhood obesity research project by the Rutgers University Foundation, made possible in part with a $35,000 grant from the Aetna Foundation. Over a six-week period, students and teachers will track their daily steps with a pedometer to measure their typical activity patterns and any changes that occur after the introduction of a 15-minute classroom physical activity program. The study will compare the students’ activity levels to a control group of students who do not receive the in-class exercise program.
New York: The Dance Theatre of Harlem launched the Aetna Foundation Healthy Dancers, Healthy Families Initiative, a multi-year effort funded with a $25,000 grant from the Aetna Foundation, to provide 500 local children and their families with a series of workshops on obesity, healthy eating, and dance exercise at its school. New workshops for children and their parents include Ballet Fit, Adult Ballet, Liturgical Dance and a “Whole Dancer” curriculum. According to the New York City Department of Public Health, 60 percent of adults and 40 percent of children living in Greater Harlem are overweight or obese, putting them at higher risk of heart disease, diabetes and other serious illnesses.
Pennsylvania: A $50,000 Aetna Foundation award to the Weller Health Education Center is supporting a comprehensive nutrition and fitness program tailored to Bethlehem’s young Hispanic population, which is at higher risk of obesity than its non-Hispanic Caucasian counterparts. Niños en Acción (Kids in Motion) features measurable school-based and after-school programs that incorporate Hispanic cultural values to reduce and prevent obesity. More than 4,500 youth are participating in Niños en Acción.
Texas: Five servings of fruits and vegetables, four of water, three of low-fat dairy, two hours or less of screen time, and one or more hours of physical activity each day. That’s the goal of Project 5-4-3-2-1 Go!™, an obesity prevention program to be introduced to fourth, fifth and sixth graders living in impoverished neighborhoods in Dallas. With a $50,000 grant from the Aetna Foundation, the Community Council of Greater Dallas will supply kids with a toolkit containing a fitness DVD as well as games, activities and information about healthful eating and exercise.
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