PHOENIX, Oct. 21, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- For the past nine years, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona has offered the Walk On! Challenge as a free children's health initiative to all fifth-grade students throughout the state. To commemorate the 10th anniversary, the program is expanding to include even more students. The Walk On! Challenge's valuable lessons will now be offered to all fourth-grade students. For nearly a decade, the Walk On! curriculum has been incorporated into hundreds of classrooms, making a difference in how students and their families view healthy food choices, physical activity and reducing screen time.
The expansion comes at a time when Arizona students need Walk On! more than ever. According to an article in Cronkite News, Arizona had the seventh-highest rate of obesity in 2011 for children ages 10 to 17. In a study revealed on Capitol Hill, 19.8 percent of Arizona youth were considered obese as compared to the U.S. average of 15.7 percent.
Walk On! is a free health and fitness program implemented in classrooms every February. This annual program provides teachers with a fun and interactive way to teach the importance of good nutrition, physical activity and overall healthy lifestyle choices. Participating teachers receive tool kits from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona with information and in-class materials to teach the program including curriculum developed by Mollen Foundation experts. The program is all inclusive, making it seamless for teachers to incorporate the messages into their regular school schedule.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, schools play a particularly critical role in the prevention of obesity by establishing a safe and supportive environment with policies and practices that support healthy behaviors. Schools also provide opportunities for students to learn about and practice healthy eating and physical activity behaviors.
"Children spend one-third of their day at school and are faced with many opportunities to make healthy choices," noted Dr. Vishu Jhaveri, chief medical officer BCBSAZ. "The Walk On! Challenge has always aimed to support schools' and teachers' efforts. And the feedback we get from teachers confirms that we're providing a great resource in the battle against childhood obesity."
New this year - the Walk On! Challenge is open to all fourth- and fifth-grade classes in Arizona. Registration is required to ensure students who reach the 5-2-1-0 goal at least 15 days in the month will receive their reward and be entered into a drawing for prizes. This year's prizes include iPod® Nanos and gift certificates for sports equipment.
Participating schools can also apply to win one of five $5,000 grants to continue teaching the importance of physical education and nutrition all year long.
Teachers and school administration members in Arizona who are interested in registering for the Walk On! Challenge or who want to know more about the grant criteria can visit www.walkonaz.com for additional details. The deadline to register for the program is Nov. 21, 2014.
About Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona (BCBSAZ), an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, is the largest Arizona-based health insurance company. The not-for-profit company was founded in 1939 and provides health insurance products, services or networks to 1.3 million individuals. With offices in Phoenix, Flagstaff, Tucson and the East Valley, the company employs more than 1,300 Arizonans. Follow BCBSAZ at www.facebook.com/bcbsaz or on Twitter at @bcbsaz to get information on health and wellness, a knowledgeable perspective on health insurance reform, and become a part of what we're doing in your community.
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SOURCE Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona