INDIANAPOLIS and ST. LOUIS, April 12, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Thousands of children and mature adults in 14 states will have new allies in the battle against obesity as a result of a major grant.
The new allies? Each other.
Today, the WellPoint Foundation announced a $2.7 million, two-year grant to the OASIS Institute (OASIS) to greatly expand CATCH Healthy Habits, its unique intergenerational program which pairs adults with children to encourage healthier eating and physical activity.
Obesity-related expenses and complications are quickly becoming one of the nation's most pressing public health challenges. Across the country, 35 percent of people age 50 and older lead sedentary lifestyles and obesity rates in the United States have more than tripled in the last three decades among children ages 6 to 11.
In the program, teams of volunteers age 50-plus work with children in kindergarten through the fifth grade in weekly one-hour sessions. They play active games, learn about food choices and make healthy snacks.
"The sooner you can start healthy habits the better," said Lance Chrisman, executive director of the WellPoint Foundation. "We are excited to work with OASIS to bring this program to additional cities across the country because we have seen the positive difference it makes in the lives of both students and adults."
"This is truly a model for how we can leverage the talents and energies of older Americans nationwide to combat obesity," Chrisman said.
Over the next two years, OASIS will work with its primary partner, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, along with YMCAs, schools and other community partners to reach an estimated 5,000 children and volunteers.
"The OASIS Institute is dedicated to engaging mature adults in meaningful community service," said Marcia Kerz, president of the OASIS Institute. "CATCH Healthy Habits not only helps to combat the serious issue of obesity, but also benefits the adults who volunteer. Research shows that volunteers live longer, healthier lives than those who do not volunteer."
Coordinated Approach to Child Health, or CATCH, is an evidence-based, nationally-recognized curriculum created by research teams from the University of California at San Diego, University of Minnesota, Tulane University and University of Texas. CATCH measures outcomes for children, such as how the program improves their understanding of healthy food choices and physical activity.
The WellPoint Foundation has been instrumental in supporting OASIS' efforts to pilot CATCH Healthy Habits (originally known as Active Generations) since 2008. More than 200 volunteers and 1,000 children in grades three to five participated in pilot programs in California, Missouri, New York, Indiana and Pennsylvania.
Pre- and post-test survey data from these pilots show the program worked. Both children and adults learned to eat more fruits and vegetables and improved their knowledge of the recommended daily servings of both. They also became more confident that they could participate more in physical activity.
"The children enjoy all the activities and the healthy snacks," said Ellie Gramer, a volunteer in the program. "But I am especially happy to see how interested they are in learning about good foods to eat and reading labels."
CATCH Healthy Habits will start this spring and summer in a total of nine cities in six states: California (Escondido, Long Beach, Los Angeles and San Diego), Georgia (Atlanta), Indiana (Indianapolis), New York (New York City), Virginia (Richmond) and Missouri (St. Louis). The program will expand to nine additional cities in 2012, bringing the total to 18 locations in 14 states.
About the WellPoint Foundation
The WellPoint Foundation, Inc. is a private, non-profit organization wholly funded by WellPoint, Inc. Through charitable contributions and programs, the Foundation promotes WellPoint's inherent commitment to enhance the health and well-being of individuals and families in communities that WellPoint's affiliate health plans serve. With combined assets of $200 million, the Foundation focuses its funding on strategic initiatives that address and provide innovative solutions to reduce the number of uninsured as well as organizations that promote the Healthy Generations Program, a multi-generational initiative. To learn more about the WellPoint Foundation please visit www.wellpointfoundation.org.
About the OASIS Institute
OASIS is a national education organization dedicated to enriching the lives of adults age 50 and older through lifelong learning and service. Offering stimulating programs in the arts, humanities, health, technology and volunteer service, OASIS brings people together to learn, lead and contribute in their communities. The OASIS Institute in St. Louis is the headquarters of a national network that serves a diverse audience through educational centers and community partners in 27 U.S. cities. For more information, visit www.oasisnet.org
SOURCE WellPoint Foundation; OASIS Institute